Veteran Asi Taulava played with a youthful zest to lead Meralco past Alaska, 100-95, Sunday in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 39-year-old slotman made the crucial plays down the stretch as he finished with 23 points, making all his seven shots, and grabbed 12 boards to help the Bolts improve to 2-3.
It was Taulava’s best game since February 18, 2011, when he scored the same output in a loss against Ginebra in the Commssioner’s Cup.
“He turned back the hands of time,” Bolts coach Ryan Gregorio said. “His intensity rubbed off on the players.”
Taulava hit two big free throws with less than a minute remaining to give the Bolts a two-possession 98-93 cushion they never relinquished.
“Coach Ryan is doing a great job making basketball easy for me,” Taulava said.
Taulava’s vintage play overshadowed their new import’s winning debut.
Mario West, who replaced Champ Oguchi, made a great first impression for the Bolts as he tallied a game-high 33 points to go with six boards and six assists.
“We addressed our problems. It was obvious in our three-game spiral what was wrong. So we made changes and brought in Mario West,” Gregorio said of the former NBA journeyman who played for Atlanta and New Jersey.
“It’s important to have an import who can contribute on both ends,” Gregorio said. “Our spirits are high because we now have that kind of import.”
Alaska import Jason Forte, who registered 24 points and 12 boards, made a tough contested layup after Taulava’s free throws to cut the Bolts lead to three, 98-95. But it wasn’t enough as LA Tenorio missed a triple that could’ve tied the game.
The Aces, now at the cellar at 1-4, actually led at the end of the first quarter, 30-23.
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
Quarter scores: 23-30, 55-50, 82-75, 100-95