Cortez’s return sparks Bolts’ win over Aces
MANILA, Philippines — Meralco got a much-needed boost with the return of its veteran guard Mike Cortez to nip Alaska, 88-87, in the 2014 PBA Governors’ Cup Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Cortez reminded the Bolts, who finally won after losing their first four games, what they’re missing with 19 points, three rebounds and five assists while Cliff Hodge added a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
“It’s been a trying conference for us. When one player becomes healthy the other one goes down. But what we’re showing really is our resilience, courage under pressure, courage in pain, courage in adversity. In one word we call it fortitude,” said Meralco head coach Ryan Gregorio.
“I’ve been very, very patient with Mike (Cortez). That is exactly why we traded for Mike. We traded for Mike to give us stability, outside range and experience and that is exactly how he played in tonight’s game,” Gregorio said.
“And it’s just like rain in the middle of the desert to have somebody like Mike, who was able to bail us out in tonight’s game. He is the big difference and I hope he becomes healthy and stays healthy because we will always have an increased chance of winning every time he’s inside.”
Mario West topscored for the Bolts with 21 points while Reynel Hugnatan tallied 16.
Henry Walker just missed a triple-double for the Aces, who blew a chance to go above .500 and instead fell to 2-3, with 25 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.
Alaska had a golden opportunity to steal the game away from Meralco but Dondon Hontiveros uncharacteristically made a poor decision as he passed out an open jumper as time ran out.
“This is really a big win for us. Especially against a quality team and just the purpose of our game tonight. The purpose really is nothing else but to stay alive. And I think with this win, we were able to make ourselves relevant again this conference,” said Gregorio.
“The past four months, it was just so frustrating I missed the whole second conference and the beginning of this conference. I was just dying and itching my way back and I’ve been working real hard to get back and I just had fun playing tonight,” said Cortez, who was sidelined since January due to an MCL tear in his right knee.
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