Hugnatan leads Meralco against Barako Bull’s late rallyBy Celest R. Flores
MANILA, Philippines — Meralco bucked a fourth quarter scare and held on to defeat Barako Bull, 85-73, Friday in the 2012 PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A 9-0 run preserved the Bolts’ advantage for good, en route to their seventh win, on Reynel Hugnatan’s efforts downlow after seeing their lead slowly being chipped away.
The veteran forward set up Chris Ross, then knocked down back-to-back buckets before rookie Kelly Nabong capped the run with two freethrows with five minutes left for an 82-67 lead.
“After relinquishing our lead we know how to react. Composure is still something we’re really trying to learn,” said head coach Ryan Gregorio.
Meralco was up by 19 points in the first half but couldn’t hold on to its commanding lead.
By the fourth quarter, the Bolts were just up by 73-67 as the Energy’s rookie Lester Alvarez showed up with his long range.
But having experienced a meltdown before, Meralco knew how to avoid it this time.
“I was confident we’re going to pull it through because it already happened to us,” said Gregorio.
Nabong led the Bolts with 12 points — mostly in the third quarter, while Sol Mercado, Hugnatan and Sunday Salvacion added 11 apiece.
A 15-0 run by Meralco helped it surge ahead over Barako Bull, which is stuck at ninth place, in the first half.
Ronald Tubid led the Energy with 20 points, while Alvarez provided a spark in the offense and had 12 markers — all from downtown.
Alvarez made all of his attempts from downtown, which caused headaches from Gregorio and his squad, starting from a buzzer-beating trey at halftime.
MERALCO 85 – Nabong 12, Mercado 11, Hugnatan 11, Salvacion 11, Hodge 8, Buenafe 7, Ross 6, Reyes 6, Cardona 6, Sharma 6, Borboran 1.
BARAKO 73 – Tubid 20, Alvarez 12, Seigle 11, Najorda 8, Kramer 7, Pennisi 6, Ballesteros 4, Anthony 3, Cruz 2, Co 0, Yap 0.
Quarters: 25-19, 42-30, 67-57, 85-73
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