06 November 2014

Bolts 90, Road Warriors 75

Gary David
The ghosts of a bitter loss almost came back to haunt Meralco last 5 November 2014.

Good thing the Bolts had enough of an early cushion and poise in the stretch to notch a 90-75 victory over sister team NLEX to get back on track in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Gary David scored a personal conference-high 23 points while fellow Gilas Pilipinas member Jared Dillinger and Anjo Caram lent their big hands in the win that came on the heels of a 64-105 thrashing from Alaska last Friday.

It sure wasn’t easy as the final score suggests as NLEX grittily fought back from 30 points down to make a relatively close game of it in the fourth period.

Key plays by Caram and Reynel Hugnatan, however, effectively diffused the threat and Meralco went on to notch its third win in four games and a provisional tie with idle Barangay Ginebra at third-running spot.

Either San Miguel Beer or Alaska would slide into the tie following their game later in the evening.

Meralco head coach Norman Black was simply relieved his players were able to pull through. “We tried to keep everything positive despite the negativity surrounding our blowout loss to Alaska,” he said.

“My veterans played very well, Gary, Dillinger and Mike (Cortez) shared the load tonight. Even Anjo and Reynel made some plays towards the end. The loss dropped NLEX to an even 2-2 record, notwithstanding Asi Taulava’s game-highs of 24 and 12 rebounds and the 14 points apiece by Macmac Cardona and Juneric Baloria, a new career-high for the rookie out of University of Perpetual Help.

The trio was mainly responsible for the Road Warriors’ biggest fight-back of the night as they starred in a swirling 17-4 run that brought them within 75-85, still 2:07 left.

But Hugnatan found Caram for a fastbreak and, following a three-point miss by KG Canaleta, the heady veteran and 5-foot-7 guard out of San Beda, inserted into the lineup in lieu of the injured Simon Atkins, collared offensive rebounds in Meralco’s next possessions to virtually seal the win.

"We bounced back and we did a better job against a pressure defense," noted Black. "Our team is a work in progress. It’s gonna be hard work and dedication for us this conference to be able to attain success this time around."

Dillinger wound up with 17 points, nine in the third period, while Hugnatan hauled down 10 rebounds to go with seven points after Cliff Hodge, the team’s top player with 17.3 ppg and 15.0 rpg, was limited to just four and five.

Shades of the Alaska game were brought back to mind after NLEX began stirring into life in the second half. After going just 9-for-35 from the field in the first half, the Road Warriors made 16 of 34 shots in the last 24 minutes of play to the Bolts’ 12-for-42.

The shooting discrepancy allowed NLEX to trim what stood as 39-69 game into a more manageable 51-71 deficit after three quarters.
Baloria was at the forefront of it all, scoring eight of his points during a 10-0 run and Taulava taking care of the boards while also scoring eight. However, the Road Warriors should have woken up earlier.

David, who went into the game averaging just 5.67 points, readily showed he is most comfortable as a starter by nearly tripling his norm in the first half alone which Meralco took 52-29.

It didn’t help NLEX any that its form was a very far cry from the one it showed in a 97-81 shocker over Barangay Ginebra last week.

The Road Warriors started the game missing seven of their first nine field goal attempts while committing four turnovers, enabling the Bolts to race to an 18-4 lead and stretch it to 16 points twice, the last at 24-8.

The Road Warriors’ shooting woes spilled over into the second quarter, where it made just five of 25 shots, and Meralco was more than ready to pounce, posting three 25-point spreads, the last at 50-25.

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