JARED Dillinger and import Brian Butch led a fourth-quarter fightback that carried Meralco a 109-98 victory over Air21 Express in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Down by 18 points entering the fourth period, Dillinger and Butch knocked down the big three-pointers to cap a telling 27-2 windup that enabled the Bolts to vault to solo fourth spot with their 3-2 win-loss record.
Meralco outscored a stunned Air21 side, 41-12 in the fourth period to deny the Express, who for three quarters held say behind the three-point shooting of new import Wesley Witherspoon.
“That was really an 80s and 90s throwback performance by Wesley Witherspoon. I haven’t seen anything like it (shooting performance) but the good thing is our defense worked in the fourth quarter,” Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio told sports scribes after the game.
Gregorio paid tribute to Fil-American forward Dillinger, who pumped in 13 of his 20 points in the final period, as well as Butch, who finished with 40 points and a conference-high 31 rebounds.
It was a timely performance that could well have saved the job of the 6-9 Butch, who Gregorio admitted was playing under extreme pressure due to the presence of standby import Darnell Jackson.
“Give me a few hours and I will answer that (on whether to replace Butch or not). But 40 and 31 performance, that’s unheard of, it’s unheard of,” said Gregorio.
Gregorio commended the one-time NBA D-League Impact Player of the Year for his laser-like focus under the circumstances.
“It speaks highly of Butch. With so much pressure on his back and he plays like that, it’s a testament to his strong character,” said Meralco coach.
“I thought I have seen it when he had 42 points and 24 rebounds (against Globalport). But this is off the charts when we climbed back from a deep hole,” he added.
The loss dropped the Express to the bottom half of the standings at 2-3, in a tie with defending champion Alaska Aces.
Witherspoon finished the game with 44 points in his PBA debut, powered by a conference-high eight three-point shots, to go along with nine rebounds and one steal.
But the former Memphis Tiger forward only scored five points in the final period after tiring out in the end.
Meralco 109 - Butch 40, Dillinger 20, Wilson 12, David 11, Hodge 9, Caram 6, Mandani 4, Hugnatan 3, Guevarra 2, Artadi 2, Ildefonso 0, Al-Hussaini 0.
Air21 98 - Witherspoon 44, Cardona 22, Taulava 11, Yeo 7, Borboran 4, Villanueva 4, Camson 4, Atkins 2, Poligrates 0, Ramos 0, Burtscher 0.
Quarterscores: 25-18, 42-53, 68-86, 109-98