Short-handed Bolts rally to thwart Fuel Masters
Short on personnel but long in determination, Meralco rebounded from its first loss in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Friday night by pulling off what coach Norman Black feels is as the Bolts’ most satisfying win yet.
“It was just an incredible effort from my guys tonight,” Black said after the Bolts—with three aces out of the roster—carved out a come-from-behind 107-104 win over Phoenix Petroleum to creep closer to a playoff berth at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
“We had to deal with a lot of adversities in this game and we really needed to get a win, especially after coming off a loss,” added the multi-titled coach, who didn’t mind playing his remaining players extended minutes with an 18-day break coming their way.
Garvo Lanete fired 14 points in the third period and finished with 27, effectively plugging the holes created by the absence of Baser Amer and Mike Tolomia as the Bolts completed a rally from as big as 15 points down to rise to 5-1.
Amer, a prime candidate for the Most Improved Player of the year award who has stepped up to become the team’s best point guard, and Tolomia, whom Black described as his second best point guard, are both in Kuala Lumpur playing for Gilas Pilipinas in the Southeast Asian Games.
Aside from his two guards, Black also missed his best defender in Cliff Hodge, which meant that the Bolts were “not strong defensively,” allowing Phoenix to nearly get away with a victory.
The next Meralco game will be on Sept. 6 against sister team TNT KaTropa, and that game would mean a seat in the playoffs should the Bolts escape with a win.
“Good thing is that all three of them will be back for our next game,” Black said as Allen Durham chipped in his share with 33 points 16 rebounds and seven assists. Chris Newsome and Reynel Hugnatan also finished in twin digits with a combined 33.
Phoenix paraded a new import in Brandon Brown and almost hammered out a victory.
But the Fuel Masters, who broke in Jeff Chan after acquiring the left-handed gunslinger from Rain or Shine just over a week ago, couldn’t hold on to a 77-62 lead late in the third quarter and went down for the fourth straight game after a 2-0 start.
Brown, playing in lieu of the injured Eugene Phelps, finished with 38 points, while Chan wound up with 27 in his biggest offensive game of the season.
Brown, though, missed the potential game-tying basket as time expired.
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