LOSING to San Mig Coffee in the quarterfinal playoffs of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup for the second straight season was a bitter pill to swallow for coach Ryan Gregorio and the rest of the Meralco Bolts.
It was déjà vu for Gregorio and his team on Wednesday night after the Mixers cut short their campaign behind a 90-82 win in the deciding game of their best-of-three series on Wednesday night.
Last year the Bolts also suffered the same fate as they also won Game One of their quarterfinal series with the Mixers only to get eliminated after losing the next two.
Meralco actually managed to stay with San Mig Coffee until early in the fourth quarter when the Mixers scored 11 unanswered points to clinch the win.
“I thought we did a good job in the third quarter. But we just couldn’t sustain it,” lamented Gregorio, whose team also bombed out in the quarterfinals of the season-opening Philippine Cup following a two-game sweep at the hands of Alaska.
“In a tough grind such as this, they’ve (Mixers) been there and done that. For us, we’re still working in a situation like this. They did a good job defensively and held us to seven points in the fourth quarter. That speaks volumes of their defense,” added the Meralco mentor.
The Bolts’ situation was compounded even more by the injuries to perimeter gunners Ronjay Buenafe and Sunday Salvacion.
Buenafe, a three-point threat, dislocated his finger early in the first half, while Salvacion, another of Gregorio’s floor spacers, played with a hamstring injury.
Without a solid threat from the outside, the Mixers wisely clogged the paint and prevented Meralco import Eric Dawson from taking over when the Bolts needed points.
“The floor was so clogged and that didn’t allow Eric Dawson to operate. They (Mixers) just clogged the paint," he said. “But I was hoping Macmac (Cardona) could get his bearings back after keeping him fresh entering the fourth quarter.
"But things like that happen. (It's) hard to take but we just have to move forward,” said Gregorio.
Following the loss to San Mig, Meralco is now 0-3 in a playoff series against San Mig, the same team Gregorio previously handled before taking the Bolts’ coaching job.
Still, Gregorio is hopeful the Bolts could bounce back strong in the season-ending Governors Cup with import Mario West possibly returning for another tour of duty.