16 September 2013

Bolts 100, Express 91

Mike Cortez's adjustment period with Meralco did not take as long as expected.

To the delight of Meralco, which drew from Cortez what was expected of him right on his second game as he helped the Bolts beat Air21, 100-91, Sunday (15 September 2013) to formally clinch a quarterfinals berth in the PBA Governors Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The man newly acquired from Air21 scored 17 points and issued six assists, backstopping the efforts of Mario West and Cliff Hodge in leading Meralco to its fifth win in eight games and a tie with San Mig Coffee for second-running spot.

The Bolts could even achieve their goal of making it among the top four should they beat the Mixers in their last outing on Friday. Those in the upper half of the eight advancing to the quarterfinals carry with them a twice-to-beat advantage each.

Coach Ryan Gregorio is simply glad his team managed to quickly shake off the bitter memories of a 79-91 loss to GlobalPort their last time out.

"This is one important win for us, We were derailed the last time, but we found ways to win today," said Gregorio.

"Hopefully we can end up with one of the top four slots to gain advantage going to the playoffs, but this is my primary concern since a win propels us closer to the top four while a loss would complicate our conference."

That's exactly what just happened to Air21.

The loss, their sixth against only two wins, did not eliminate the Express just yet but it sure should feel like it since they are now left hoping Alaska and GlobalPort, both 3-4, and/or 2-5 Talk N Text lose their remaining matches and they win against the Aces for them to wind up with identical 3-6 slates.

Such a tie for the eighth quarterfinals spot would be broken by a one-game play off.

No such worries nag at Gregorio after his charges followed their gameplan to the letter

"We have this reputation as a defensive team but we have to combine that with our offense so our goal today was to score 100. We really want to go deep this conference, so we have to combine our offense with the toughness of our defense," said Gregorio.

Cortez, who went scoreless in his first game with his fifth PBA team, figures prominently in Gregorio’s scheme of things. "That’s why we traded for Mike, because he gives us a more stable halfcourt. But tonight we also got timely offensive production for him," said the coach.

West more than did his part with 29 points and so did Hodge with 24 and a team high 13 rebounds as Meralco got off to a good start to lead by as many as 16 points before repeatedly fending off Air21′s protracted uprisings.

Zach Graham had 22 points to pace the Express with Nino Canaleta adding 15 and Asi Taulava 14 to go with a gamehigh 19 rebounds. (NC)

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