Monday, October 24, 2011
Newly Energized Meralco Won Over Petron, Solomon Mercado Returns
Mercado finally saw action for the season and immediately scored a team-high 16 points off the bench as the Bolts dealt the Petron Blaze Boosters their first defeat with an 80-70 victory Sunday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Gabby Espinas had his second double-double of the conference with 14 points and 12 rebounds and along with Asi Taulava made some crucial baskets in the fourth period. Meralco's defense also held Petron to its lowest output yet for the season.
Still, it was clearly the return of Mercado which provided the biggest lift for the Boosters as they improved their win-loss record to 3-2 while cutting short the Boosters' winning run at three.
"Sol gave us a huge lift, but more importantly he gave us another artillery," said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio. "His presence alone gave us a big confidence boost since we know we have another live body who can play."
The man who suffered a right knee injury prior to the season also finished with five rebounds and four assists, surprising even Gregorio himself.
"I didn't expect him to play this well since he was out five weeks," related Gregorio. "But his heart is so big that he was able to play through the pressure and the pain and tow us through to victory."
Arwind Santos had his fourth straight double-double of 17 and 13 and Chris Lutz and Joseph Yeo chipped in 16 and 11, respectively. Yet the other go-to guys of Petron failed to deliver their usual quotas.
Alex Cabagnot was held to only six points, 10 below his average, and Denok Miranda, who had 18 the last time out, managed only seven.
As a team, the Boosters did not breach the 40 percent-mark in field shooting for any quarter before finishing with just 32.4% by making only 24 of 74 shots to the Bolts' 36.6 percent (26-for-71).
Gregorio would like to think it was his team's defense that limited Petron to 18.7 points below its conference average.
"I think one critical factor in this game was our defense," he pointed out. "For limiting a high-scoring team like Petron to 70 points, I think we really deserve to win this one."
The Bolts' ability to make stops surfaced to the fullest going into the game'
s last two minutes when they held the Boosters scoreless after the latter had crawled to within 70-75.
There's enough time for Meralco to preen before its following games against Alaska on Friday and Rain or Shine on Sunday.
"Our battlecry going into this game was, for at least some moments we want to be the best," related Gregorio. "And in order to be the best we have to beat the best. Prior to this game Petron was the best, so for one shining moment were able to feel it. It's nice to be the first to beat Petron."
The outcome was far from decided although Meralco managed to erect a 66-53 lead, early in the fourth quarter, following Mercado's triple and Mark Isip's three-point play.
But Taulava scored four points and Espinas completed a three-point play, all off offensive rebounds that ensured Meralco had enough cushion going into the endgame.
Meralco actually started taking control in the second quarter and took a 36-30 halftime lead, thanks mainly to Mercado and rookie Brian Faundo combining for half of the team's 18 points and Petron going 7-for-18 from the field.
Santos scattered nine of his points in the third canto, all helping the Boosters keep within 46-48, before a more balanced Meralco scoring led by Mark Isip and Chico Lanete, padded the lead to 58-49. (NC)
MERALCO 80 - Mercado 16, Espinas 14, Lanete 9, taulava 8, Isip 7, Faundo 6, Macapagal 6, Omolon 6, Borboran 5, Yee 3, Ballesteros 0.
PETRON 70 - Santos 17, Lutz 16, Yeo 11, Miranda 7, Cabagnot 6, Ildefonso 6, Agustin 3, Baclao 2, Sharma 2, Guevarra 0, Reyes 0.
Quarterscores: 18-17, 36-30, 58-49, 80-70