20 April 2013

Bolts 88, San Mig 85

Eric Dawson
Meralco relied on Eric Dawson’s free throws and rebounding in the endgame to eke out a close 88-85 win over defending champion San Mig Coffee at the start of their best-of-three quarterfinal in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Dawson scored nine of his 25 points in the fourth including four free throws in the final 3:27 of the game which proved enough for the Bolts to break out of the game's final deadlock of 84-all.

"I don't know what he's made of," said Bolts coach Ryan Gregorio of their import, who showed little signs of being hobbled by his left knee injured in the game against Rain or Shine last Wednesday.

Dawson was given the go-signal to play Thursday, but not after management got another import, Ron Carter, to fly in just in case. The dreadlocked Carter arrived Friday morning.

"We're getting a lot of inspiration from him," added Gregorio of Dawson. "We're really climbing on his back and thriving on the way he's leading us."

Ronjay Buenafe and Sunday Salvacion each had 13 points and the latter had a crucial followup reverse, but it was Dawson who propped the Bolts’ fourth quarter charge, scoring all but two from the stripe, and which he complemented those with the game's last three defensive rebounds.

His charity splits gave Meralco an 86-84 lead and his last two free throws pegged what would prove to be the final count in the final 4.4 seconds.

San Mig Coffee, which also fell into a similar 0-1 hole against Meralco in a best-of-3 quarterfinal in this very same conference last season, en route to winning the championship, was led by the 37 points, 15 rebounds, four shotblocks and two steals of Denzel Bowles but he was held without a field goal and to just two free throws in the final 6:15 of the game.

"We just want to be more intelligent come Sunday. We've been in this situation before. We were up one game against them too. At this point there’s no reason for us to celebrate. It takes two wins to win a best-of-3 series," said Gregorio, very much aware of still losing the series last year to the then Llamados despite winning the opener.

"There were anxious moments for us especially at the start when we couldn't stop Denzel Bowles but luckily for us in the end we were able to make the necessary stops, make the crucial free throws. The challenge against San Mig Coffee really is to make them bleed for their baskets. That’s exactly what we did in tonight’s game," he added.

San Mig Coffee rookie Alex Mallari came off the bench to score 12. But the likes of PJ Simon and James Yap failed to break through the twin digits barrier.

Still, San Mig had chances, the most notable of which was when it gained possession following a miss by Dawson, still 20.9 ticks left.

Mixers coach Tim Cone even called two successive timeouts to draw up and make clear some a play that would raze an 85-86 deficit. Yap, on the bench since the 6:52 mark of the third quarter, was even fielded back in for an additional threat.

Nothing came of the play, however, as Mark Barroca, finding himself momentarily free, missed a straightaway triple try.

Following Dawson's last two charities, Meralco prevented San Mig from any attempt at a game-tying triple by immediately fouling Bowles on his ensuing inbound reception.

Bowles missed the first and his intentional flub on the second went for naught as Dawson also snared that rebound. (NC)

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