22 October 2012

Bolts 85, Air21 72

Bolts vs Air21
Sol Mercado and Macmac Cardona did not take long to atone.

The two combined for the biggest points, helping Meralco shrug off the memories of a bitter Wednesday (21 October 2012) by leading it to a cruising 85-72 victory over Air21 Sunday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Mercado scored 24 and Cardona 18 as they alternately took charge for the Bolts and made up for their lapses in a 104-105 loss to erstwhile winless GlobalPort. In that game, Mercado went for a drive instead of a game-tying triple in the last five seconds while Cardona scored only two points.

Worse, the Bolts' locker room was ransacked by thieves just before halftime, carting away personal belongings by head coach Ryan Gregorio and some of his staff.

"It's nice to bounce back after that harrowing experience," said Gregorio. "We just told ourselves to face our fears and just come out with better focus, compete, play good basketball and find ways to win and we did all those in today's game."

Still, it was his Bolts' job on the defensive end, limiting Air21 to the conference low by any team, that pleased Gregorio most.

"I think we defended very well today," he noted. "We were able to put the numbers of Air21 to not so significant ones, which coming into this game was our plan."

It was the third straight loss by Air21, caused largely in part by the inability of the Express to match the Bolts' pace on both ends of the court.

Only John Wilson was able to crash the double-digit barrier with 16 points and he practically bled for those after being hounded no end by Sunday Salvacion, who also often shifted to KG Canaleta.

"I think our biggest contributor was Sunday, who did a heck of a job defensively on KG and John Wilson. He simply out in a fantastic effort in terms of defense," said Gregorio.

Air21 head coach Franz Pumaren was left hoping his team soon finds the form he has been wishing for.

"In our last few games we're struggling on consistency," admitted Pumaren. "We're not executing well down the stretch and my players were being outworked toward the latter part of said games."

One perfect example of that was a 12-minute span in the last half, where the Express went 1-for- 13 from the field and committed four turnovers. Prior to that slump, it was just a 56-59 game. When it was over, they were already behind by 63-85, only 1:48 left.

The win had an additional spice.

Reynel Hugnatan became the 45th player of all time and 15th among the active players to reach the 1,000 offensive rebounds plateau, making it with 6:49 left in the third quarter. He went on to finish with 10 boards to go with his 10 points.

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