08 October 2012

Bolts 112, Texters 110

Ronjay Buenafe
If Norman Black was watching the game from afar, he would have probably fidgeted, gulped and choked as Talk 'N Text threw away a 24-point lead, flirted with disaster and went through five more minutes before edging Meralco in overtime, 112-110, Friday night (5 October 2012) in the 2012-13 PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Jared Dillinger and Jason Castro recovered their form in the extra period and rifled in triples while the Bolts choked from the free throw line with Solomon Mercado and rookie Cliff Hodge muffing two charities each.

JayR Reyes actually sent the contest into overtime with a lay-up off an assist from Mercado that made it 99-all with 3.1 seconds remaining in regulation. Mercado then stole off Ranidel de Ocampo in Talk ‘N Text's next play as the buzzer sounded.

Ronjay Buenafe, whom Meralco acquird from Rain Or Shine, rifled in a triple to give the Bolts their first taste of the lead, 102-101, 4:22 to go in overtime before Meralco led for the last time at 106-105 on a free throw split by Mercado off the sixth foul of Harvey Carey, 2:03 left.

After Castro installed the Tropang Texters on top via a howitzer, 108-106, Hodge had the opportunity to tie the count but he bungled two free throws off an Ali Peek foul.

Dillinger nailed another long jumper for a 110-106 count. But Mercado countered with a triple and then Talk 'N text was whistled for improper bench decorum and Buenafe canned a free throw to tie the score at 110-all, 14 seconds left.

Castro then sealed the win for the Tropang Texters with two free throws off a Buenafe foul after that.

Meralco had a chance to send the game to another extra period or win it but Mercado lost control off his dribble and failed to dish off a pass or take a crack at the basket as the final buzzer sounded.

"I feel relieved. Yun lang naman ang bilin ni coach Norman sa amin. We should try to win the game the best way we could," said assistant coach Nash Racela who handled the Tropang Texters in Black's absence. "Nanalo naman kami."

Black, who is making a comeback as head coach in the PBA after a decade's absence, could not yet handle the Talk 'N Text as he is still committed to complete his stint as head coach of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP. He has however been already handling the Tropang Texters practices during the off-season after taking over the place of Chot Reyes who has been tasked to concentrate on the Smart Gilas national basketball program.

"He told me I would handle the team for two games," said the 40-year old Racela, who joined Talk 'N Text in 2008 when Reyes replaced Derick Pumaen as head coach of the eam.

Talk 'N Text, which decided to remain intact this season, enjoyed a 24-point lead, 86-62 on a basket by Larry Fonacier, 1:15 remaining in the third frame. But the Tropang Texters suddenly lost their rhythm in the fourth period and were held to only 13 points while Meralco succeeded in its comeback bid.

"We gave them (Bolts) a lot of offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and that enabled them to come back," said Racela.

Particularly impressive for Meralco was Reyes who stepped up to fill the vacancy caused by the departure of Paul Asi Taulava. Taulava decided against a two-year extension and signed up to play in the ABL.

Reyes, whom Meralco acquired from Alaska Mllk in a trade involving Gabby Espinas before last season's Governors Cup started, led the Bolts with 25 points and four rebounds aside from two steals and a blocked shot in 32 minutes.

Equally impressive was Hodge, the fourth pick overall n the recent rookie draft. Hodge, a member of the NLEX Road Warriors in the PBA D-League, ended up with 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal in 44 minutes in his debut as a pro.

Dillinger led the Tropang Texters with 20 points, six boards and five assists while six other Tropang Texters also finished in double figures in scoring.

Talk 'N Text started the contest with a 7-0 run that forced Meralco head coach Ryan Gregorio to call a quick timeout. Hodge put the Bolts on the scoreboard after that powwow.

The game marked Harvey Carey's becoming the 38th member of the league’s 2,000 defensive rebounds club and the third to achieve in a Talk 'N Text uniform after Vic Pablo and Williams with his first at the 3:44 mark of the first period after a Buenafe three-point miss.

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