26 June 2012

Bolts 91, Powerade 78

Solomon Mercado
Meralco's defense clicked into high gear once again Sunday evening (24 June 2012).

And with Sol Mercado coming up with a timely explosion, the Bolts had little trouble beating Powerade, 91-78, to fan their hopes of making it to the PBA Governors Cup semifinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Mercado scored all of his 15 points and outscored by himself the entire Powerade team by three in the last period to complement Meralco's defensive tenacity anchored on Mario West's stifling of Gary David.

"Sol was magnificent in the fourth. Before that I was telling him to just be patient, that the defense will definitely loosen up and it did," said Bolts coach Ryan Gregorio of his prized guard who went into the game averaging 13.7 points.

Mercado's exploits enabled Meralco to notch its second straight win and fourth in eight games overall that tied it with its victim and Petron Blaze, 82-103 loser to Rain or Shine last Saturday, for fourth-running spot and a clear shot at one of the six semifinals slots.

"It's a great win for us, but the goal has not been achieved yet," said Gregorio, whose team winds up the nine-game eliminations phase against Barako Bull on Sunday. "We still need to play good basketball on Sunday and hopefully it is enough to get us through."

Based on its last two games, Meralco seems well on its way as the Bolts once again showed the defensive aggressiveness they used in fashioning a 106-77 win against Alaska last Wednesday.

Mario West scored a game-high 29 points on top of nine rebounds and played great defense on David that limited the latter to 20 points on just 9-for-21 field shooting.

"We knew all along that if we really wanted to beat Powerade it will be because of our lockdown defensive mentality. It's a good thing our import takes so much pride defending," related Gregorio.

"Before the game, I told him he will be up against the best local scorer. But I also told him that definitely, David's not better than Tyreke (Evans), Lebron (James) nor (Dwyane) Wade," added Gregorio, referring to the players West went up against in his NBA days with Atlanta and New Jersey.

West readily laid the foundations on what David should expect by pulling off the first of his two blocks and stealing off the latter right in the first quarter. He went on to block David again in the third period.

Omar Sneed had a team-high 23 points and Rey Guevarra added 12 for Powerade but the Tigers as a team were held down to way below their conference-best 102.7 ppg and their output was their lowest since a 117-78 loss to Barako Bull in the season-opening Philippine Cup eliminations.

Powerade was looking for a big rebound following a 121-128 loss to Air21 last Friday and was still within 66-68 going into the fourth period. But with nobody else stepping up, the game started slipping away from the Tigers' grasp at about the same time Mercado went to full work.

Mercado made all but two of his eight shots, mostly on hard drives, and missed just one of three free throws in the fourth period.

Macmac Cardona, who also wound up with 15 points, did his share by draining a shotclock-beating triple that gave Meralco an 87-72 spread that proved safe enough going to the last 3:29 of play.

David, who went into the game averaging 26 ppg and fresh from a 28-point game, seemed to have solved West's puzzle in the third period when he scattered 11 points, including his second triple of the game that made it a 61-59 count.

Cardona was quick to answer back with his own trey and West scored the last four of Meralco's points during a 9-5 surge that gave the Bolts a 68-66 edge heading into the final 12 minutes of play. (NC)


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