SUNDAY Salvacion capped Meralco’s frenetic endgame fightback by banking in a three-pointer at the buzzer to lead the Bolts to a confidence-building 90-89 victory over Globalport on Sunday night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Playing only his first game of the conference, the 6-2 forward repaid coach Ryan Gregorio's faith by scoring 20 points, spiked by 6-for-7 shooting from three-point distance, to help the Bolts snap a three-game losing skein and catch Batang Pier at 2-3 in the standings.
None of those shots were bigger than the desperation three-pointer he banked in without any hesitation after receiving a pass from Mac-mac Cardona, the designated shooter who failed to get off a shot after Globalport import Justin Williams rotated on him.
“It’s definitely a broken play. But that’s why we want veterans on the floor to play. I told Mac-mac (Cardona), if you get into trouble, there’s a safety pass behind you. And somehow, he expected someone to be free,” Gregorio said.
“Sunday has not seen the floor for at least three games but that’s what veterans come in to do. They come in and play. Fantastic shot by Sunday,’” he added.
Unlike in its game against Petron which saw Meralco scale a 22-point fourth-quarter deficit only to lose, 86-88, this time the Bolts had enough to go all the way.
“We need games like these to unite our team. We need situations like these to make us love one another. The script is like a Holywood script. We were down big but somehow we found ways to win,” said the Meralco mentor.
The Bolts fell behind by as many as 17 points, 29-46 as Batang Pier rode on the hot shooting hands of Gary David, Willie Miller and seldom-used JP Belencion, who scored 11 of his career-high 15 points in the first half alone.
But Meralco patiently cut the imposing lead down with its patient execution on offense behind Chris Ross, who finished with a career-best 17 assists, outdueling his best friend and former teammate Solomon Mercado, who had nine assists.
Mercado finished with just six points on 3-of-14 shooting, but the Batang Pier drew 27 points from David and 22 from Miller, who entering the game had only scored a total of 16 points in the team’s first four games.
Import Justin Williams failed to break into double figures after finishing with just eight points, though he still pulled down 13 rebounds and tied his season-high eight blocks in 37 minutes of play.
Meralco 90 - Salvacion 20, Dawson 19, Hodge 16, Cardona 15, Hugnatan 7, Manuel 4, Buenafe 4, Guevara 3, Ross 2, Reyes 0, Artadi 0
Globalport 89 - David 27, Miller 22, Belencion 15, Aguilar 12, Mercado 6, Williams 5, Mandani 2, Yee 0, Salvador 0, Crisano 0
Quarterscores: 17-24, 43-48, 66-67, 90-89