12 April 2014

Bolts 105, Barako 98

Chris Timberlake
For the second time in the conference, Meralco battled back from an at least 20 point deficit, blasting Barako Bull 105-98 Friday night to formalize its place in the quarterfinals of the 2014 PLDT Home TVolution PBA Commissioner’s Cup last 11 April 2014 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

With Gary David, Jared Dillinger, and import Darnell Jackson leading the way, the Bolts battled back from a slow start and a 22-point hole in the first period to post the come-from-behind win and improve its win-loss record to 4-4 while securing a seventh playoff appearance in the last eight conferences.

"We had the same chance last conference. We needed one win in three games to get to the playoffs. We failed to win one. It's pretty much deja vu this conference and we just didn’t want it to slip away. We're glad to be back in the playoffs," said Meralco head coach Ryan Gregorio, whose Bolts also battled back from a 20-point deficit to beat Air21 109-98 last 23 March 2014.

But this was an even bigger hole they climbed out of, resetting anew the biggest deficit overhauled en route to a win in franchise history.

"We started flat, but in the game of basketball you don't lose in the first quarter, second quarter, or the third quarter. You really have to play good basketball 'til the end. And I think that's the biggest difference in today's game. We didn't give up. Down 22, they were making impossible shots, and we were not making our shots. But this game is simply too important for us to just let it slip away," Gregorio explained.

Jackson paced the Bolts with 30 points alongside five rebounds and five assists for his first win in the league since replacing Brian Butch at the end of March.

Dillinger finished with 16, while David and John Wilson both notched 15 in the game.

Gregorio also got plenty of mileage from Chris Timberlake who made his conference debut after being activated a day earlier, taking the place of Paul Artadi.

Scoreless in seven games in this season’s Philippine Cup, Timberlake chucked in a career-high 12 points in 22 minutes of play off the bench on a 4-of-5 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 from the 15-foot line while adding four rebounds, three assists and one steal.

"In today's game, I think the biggest contributor is Chris Timberlake. Plucked out of the farthest end of our bench, not even a part of our team to begin with, but he played consistent basketball. It’s just fantastic how players respond to certain situations and he definitely heeded the call," Gregorio said of Timberlake.

Barako Bull shot the lights out in the opening quarter, racing to a 14-0 start, going 5-of-8 from threes to erect a 33-20 lead which ballooned to as big as 22 in the second quarter.

But the Bolts slowly chipped away at the lead and roared right back in the second half, taking the lead at the start of the fourth courtesy of Timberlake.

Meralco played like a well-oiled machine from that point on.

"For some reason, I think I gave my players too much pressure at the start of the game," Gregorio also said. "I emphasized nothing but winning, and sometimes, when you overemphasize things, you tend to be the culprit in situations where you just freeze your players. We were down by 22, I just changed my motto, 'Just take it slow and enjoy the game.' And this is what this sport is about. It is something which is supposed to be enjoyed. We had so much fun climbing back from a really, really deep hole. And if that is going to be the identity of the team, I don't mind that."

"'The comeback kids.' I don’t mind that, as long as we find ways to win it in the end," he added.

Meralco, which will wrap up its eliminations against San Mig Coffee on Monday, quashed a 33-point outing from the Energy’s Joshua Dollard, who had a double-double with his 15 boards.

JC Intal and Mick Pennisi each scored 12 markers, while rookie Jeric Fortuna had 11 for the Energy who dropped to a 2-6 slate, falling in danger of missing the playoffs.

Barako Bull's last assignment in the elims is against GlobalPort this Sunday where it needs to win while hoping either Air21, Barangay Ginebra and Rain or Shine (3-5) don't get a fourth win in order for the Energy to have a shot at a playoff for the last quarterfinal berth. (RL)

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