RONJAY Buenafe scored all of his 19 points in the final quarter to lead streaking Meralco past a slumping Barako Bull, 112-104, in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-foot-2 Buenafe provided the much-needed spark off the bench by nailing three of the Bolts’ four consecutive triples that turned a tight contest into a 101-91 lead for Meralco in the final two minutes.
The Energy Cola appeared to have tired out in the endgame as they were a step slow rotating on defense, allowing Buenafe’s fourth-quarter explosion.
“We were preparing ourselves defensively, but it such a great relief to win using our offensive arsenal,” said a beaming Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio.
“It’s nice to see Ronjay heeding the call. And one thing nice about this team is you just don’t know who’s gonna light up. One game it was Sunday Salvacion. Then in another game, it was Macmac (Cardona) and (Chris) Ross. Tonight, it’s Ronjay’s turn,” he said of the former shooting guard out of Emilio Aguinaldo College, who averages just 15 minutes of playing time per game.
“We’re in a very good situation,” added the Bolts’ youthful looking mentor, whose team improved to 4-3 after booking its third straight win.
The Bolts gave up nine triples to the Energy Cola in the first three quarters as Mick Pennisi, Mark Macapagal, and Jonas Villanueva caught fire from beyond the arc.
But Meralco had the last laugh by outshooting its opponent from the three-point region, a ploy which Gregorio said worked to the Bolts’ advantage.
Import Evan Brock exploded for 37 points and 25 rebounds - both PBA career highs - but his outstanding performance failed to prevent the Energy Cola from dropping their fourth straight match for a 3-5 record.
Eric Dawson led the Bolts with 27 points, 20 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks, while Ross finished two rebounds short of a triple-double with 17 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds.
Meralco (112) - Dawson 27, Buenafe 19, Ross 17, Hugnatan 13, Cardona 12, Reyes 9, Salvacion 9, Hodge 4, Artadi 2, Manuel 0, Guevarra 0.
Barako Bull (104) - Brock 37, Villanueva 16, Macapagal 16, Pennisi 14, Seigle 11, Urbiztondo 4, Maliksi 3, Anthony 3, Weinstein 0, Intal 0.
Quarterscores: 32-19, 48-51, 78-77, 112-104