MERALCO’S high-voltage running game and unforgiving defense proved too much for Barako Bull in an 86-68 victory that led the franchise to a breakthrough semifinal appearance in the PBA Governors Cup on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio was quick to pay tribute to his assistant coaches after the Bolts held high-scoring import Michael Singletary to nine points and the entire Barako Bull squad to 27.8 percent shooting to book their first Final Four appearance since they joined the league in 2010.
“In as much as I would like to really think of ways to describe our run, much of it really is attributed to the coaching genius of (assistant) coach Jong (Uichico) and coach Xavy (Nunag) to prepare us defensively,” said Gregorio. "That is one of the reasons why we are successful this conference."
So unforgiving was Meralco's defense that Singletary, the league's leading scorer and leading contender for the Best Import Award, took just 10 attempts - way below his average of 25 attempts per game in the eliminations.
The former Texas Tech product shot just two-of-10 from the field overall, including an anemic zero-of-three from beyond the arc, in a game the Energy Cola needed to win to force a playoff against the twice-to-beat Bolts.
“If you tell me before the game that we can to limit Barako Bull to less than 70 points, (I'll tell you) it’s not gonna happen,” said Gregorio.
Import Mario West led the Bolts with 25 points while Best Player of the Game Reynel Hugnatan finished with a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Macmac Cardona added 12 while rookie Cliff Hodge chipped in 10 in a balanced scoring attack for Meralco.
Ronjay Buenafe and rookie forward Keith Jensen were the only double-figure scorers for Barako Bull with 23 and 10 points, respectively.
Meralco 86 - West 25, Hugnatan 18, Cardona 12, Hodge 10, Wilson 8, Cortez 6, Salvacion 3, Ross 2, Dillinger 2, Sena 0, Timberlake 0, Reyes 0.
Barako 68 - Buenafe 23, Jensen 10, Singletary 9, Seigle 9, Weinstein 5, Marcelo 2, Intal 2, Macapagal 2, Cruz 2, Villanueva 2, Pennisi 2, Pena 0.
Quarterscores: 21-15, 44-27, 67-53, 86-68