Mario West was held scoreless in the final quarter, but locals stepped up big for Meralco to hold on for an important 100-95 victory over Alaska in the PBA Governors’ Cup Sunday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
After exploding for 33 points in the first three quarters, the ex-NBA veteran was blanked by the Aces defense in the last period but Asi Taulava picked up the cudgels for the Bolts, which ended a two-game slide for a 2-3 win-loss mark.
Taulava finished with 23 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds to preserve the heroics of the debuting West.
“We found an import who can contribute on both ends, who has the intensity which rubbed off on his teammates especially on Asi,” said Bolts coach Ryan Gregorio, who also drew a fine game from seldom-used Gilbert Bulawan who had nine points.
“Bulawan played so well. I brought him in for defensive purposes,” Gregorio added.
It was West’s sizzling start that gave Meralco control of the game. The ex-Atlanta Hawk had 22 points in the first half, when the Bolts carried a 55-50 halftime lead.
He poured in 11 more in the third quarter to extend their lead to 82-75 entering the fourth. Jay-R Reyes’s tip-in gave the Bolts an 87-77 spread with 10:19 remaining.
But the Aces kept coming back and Tenorio’s reverse lay-up pushed them within three points, 96-93, with 1:22 left in the game.
Taulava hit two free throws in the ensuing play, while Jason Forte countered with a jumper. Taulava disrupted an Alaska play when he almost stole a bounce pass of Tenorio for Sonny Thoss inside the paint.
The Aces managed to keep the possession but Tenorio’s game-tying three-point attempt missed the mark. Meralco’s Reynel Hugnatan sealed the win with a pair of free throws.
“We must come up with the same effort. We still have four games left and we still have a chance,” said Gregorio.
Forte led Alaska with 24 points while Bonbon Custodio and Tenorio each had 11 for coach Luigi Trillo, who absorbed his third straight loss to go down deeper in the standings with a 1-4 slate.
MERALCO 100 – West 33, Taulava 23, Bulawan 9, Cardona 9, Hugnatan 8, Mercado 6, Ross 4, Reyes 4, Artadi 4.
ALASKA 95 – Forte 24, Custodio 11, Tenorio 11, Jazul 10, Baguio 10, Thoss 9, Espinas 8, Eman 6, Dela Cruz 4, Baracael 2, Gonzales 0.
Quarters: 23-30, 55-50, 82-75, 100-95
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