MERALCO’s small-ball formula appears not for the long-term.
Coach Ryan Gregorio admitted teams are starting to figure a way to counter the blueprint behind the Bolts’ success in beating powerhouse teams Barangay Ginebra and San Mig Super Coffee despite an injury-depleted roster.
And that was none more obvious than in the team’s 91-82 loss against Alaska Wednesday night in the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup in a game that saw the Aces’ frontline of Sonny Thoss and Gabby Espinas dominate the Bolts inside.
Meralco did get 15 points and 11 rebounds from center-on-commission Reynel Hugnatan, who just keeps on playing despite an injured ankle.
But with Rabeh Al-Hussaini failing to stop the 6-foot-7 Thoss inside, the Bolts just couldn’t prevent the Aces from handling them a third loss in their last four games to drop into a tie with their tormentor at 3-5.
“I think teams are starting to figure out our weakness. They (Aces) are really pounding it inside,” explained Gregorio after the game, that saw his lone legitimate big man in Al-Hussaini finish with only eight points and four rebounds in 35 minutes of play.
“When we formed this team, we’ve got solid players in every position. Papa Rey (Hugnatan) is not 100 percent. And we really needed Cliff Hodge,” he said.
Hodge, the Bolts’ energetic sophomore forward, missed his fifth straight game due to a badly sprained ankle.
Without the 6-foot-4 Fil-Am’s hustle off the boards, Meralco had no solid big man to put the body against Espinas, who came away with a career-high 23 rebounds.
“We’re just getting beaten off the boards and in the inside points. Am I disappointed? Yes, because we’re not finding ways to win. But we’re not really desperate at this point in terms of panicking because we are still in a situation where our destiny is in our hands,” added Gregorio.
Meralco tries to get back on the winning track when it faces another skidding team in Barako Bull on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.