Talk ‘N Text turns back Petron; Meralco keeps Alaska winless
MANILA, Philippines – With its chief gunners slowly returning to form, Meralco turned back Alaska, 81-75, to seize solo second spot Friday night in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Back from a four-game absence, Mac Cardona poured all but two of his 10 points in the final period as he combined with Chico Lanete in a blistering finish by the Bolts, who improved to 4-2.
Playing in only his second game of the season, Solomon Mercado also starred for the Bolts with eight points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
“We’re playing with a more complete roster now and we saw a total team effort,” said coach Ryan Gregorio, whose Bolts stunned Petron Blaze, 80-70 last Sunday.
“Everyone is stepping up offensively and we’re sending a message that you just can’t guard one player here in Meralco because everyone is capable of making a difference.”
One player who made the difference down the stretch was Cardona whose back-to-back baskets pushed the Bolts lead to three, 76-73, with 1:38 remaining.
The Aces, abandoned by longtime coach Tim Cone in favor of handling B-Meg, blew a 10-point lead late in the third quarter and remained winless in five games in their worst start since the 2001 Governors’ Cup.
With Mercado riding the bench, Lanete revved up the Bolts offense early in the fourth quarter firing nine of his 17, including a triple with 6:30 remaining that put Meralco ahead to stay, 68-65.
Lanete’s nine fourth quarter points came in a crucial three-and-a-half minute stretch where the Bolts outscored the Aces, 12-5.
“It was all about Mac hitting big shots and Chico coming into play when Sol was guarded,” Gregorio said.
Trailing 75-77, the Aces were still in the thick of the fight when Lanete turned the ball over with 23 seconds remaining.
But Cyrus Baguio made a dribbling error, forcing Jay-R Reyes to foul Gabby Espinas, who hit both charities for a four-point cushion with 11 seconds remaining.
Relentless on the boards, the Bolts outrebounded the Aces, 54-28—a stat line that Gregorio said only showed the “intensity and energy” of his team.
“We wanted to build on our character after our last win,” Gregorio said. “The challenge for us tonight was to win against a team that is struggling.”
Meanwhile, pacesetter Barako Bull seeks its fifth win in six outings when it clashes with B-Meg today in the PBA Phoenix Fuel on Tour game at the Panabo Multi-Purpose Sports Center in Davao Del Norte.
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