PBA: Meralco banks on West, clamps down on McKines to beat AlaskaBy: Mark Giongco
MANILA, Philippines — Pumped up, Meralco import Mario West clenched his fist and pounded his chest repeatedly after making a tough basket as part of his third quarter outburst against Alaska.
The game was far from over at that point but West’s 20-point third period did the most damage as the Bolts beat the Aces, 84-74, in the 38th PBA Governors’ Cup Tuesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.
“Mario (West) is just an incredible athlete and incredible warrior and he is towing us right now,” said Meralco head coach Ryan Gregorio.
West finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds and three steals four nights after unleashing 47 points against Talk ‘N Text.
He helped Meralco build a commanding lead in the third period — giving the Bolts momentum heading into the final 12 minutes and enough cushion to withstand the Aces’ last push.
Alaska pulled to within six, 71-77, after JVee Casio and Calvin Abueva made back-to-back triples with still 1:19 to go before a free throw by Chris Ross followed by a turnover by Casio paved the way for Meralco’s third win against two losses.
Apart from West, locals John Wilson and Reynel Hugnatan also produced solid games. Wilson scored 15 points while the veteran Hugnatan made his presence felt on both ends with 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
“I thought it was good timing for us to play them. They played their third game in five days so it was imperative for us to find ways to out-hustle them. We really did a tremendous job on their import McKines. No open looks for him, only 13 points, we played the right kind of energy, kept our emotions in check. Always nice to win against a quality team in Alaska,” commended Gregorio.
Wendell McKines was a non-factor in the second half as Meralco’s defensive game plan worked to perfection with the bull-strong import held down to just a point in the final two quarters en route to measly 13 points.
“In a conference like this you cannot let your guards down. You have got to keep on pounding, searching and growing. Our goal is to keep climbing the ladder of success.”
Right now, the Meralco moved up the standings and joined Rain or Shine and Barako Bull in the top four with identical 3-2 records along with league-leader Petron Blaze.
“We are just engaged. I think that’s why we’re successful so far.”