REYNEL Hugnatan and Gary David rescued Meralco from the brink of collapse, combining for two three-pointers in the endgame to lift Meralco to a 98-85 victory over slumping Barako Bull for a share of the lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
In command for much of the game, the Bolts saw their 12-point lead whittled down to just 81-86 by the Energy behind sophomore guard Nico Salva’s fourth-quarter explosion.
But the left-handed Hugnatan nailed a corner three-pointer with the shot clock winding down before David added another one moments later to help Meralco snap its two-game losing streak.
Meralco improved to a 6-2 overall to tie idle Talk ‘N Text at the top of the standings. More importantly, the victory kept the Bolts’ aspirations for a top-two finish alive.
The top two teams at the end of the single-round eliminations will earn twice-to-beat incentives heading into the playoffs.
Energetic import Josh Davis also regained his old deadly self since hurting his lower back in a bad fall three weeks ago against San Miguel Beer, pumping in a game-high 32 points and hauling down 19 rebounds.
David chipped in 14 points, including 11 in the final quarter.
“Josh is a great player. He’s not an offensive player, but he brings a lot energy to the table,” said Meralco coach Norman Black. “It’s nice to have Josh Davis play 100 percent because his activity tonight made a lot of difference in this win, but Reynel also had a big game for us offensively.”
On the other hand, Barako Bull, which just over a month ago was on top of the standings with its 3-0 record, fell to 4-5 and out of the playoff frame in joint ninth spot with expansion team KIA Carnival.
The 6-4 Hugnatan, who is fresh from an All-Star stint in Palawan last week, finished with a personal conference-high 21 points, on top of six rebounds.
Defense also played a huge role in Meralco’s victory as the Bolts held Barako Bull’s seven-foot Nigerian import Solomon Alabi to just 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the floor.
Chico Lanete and Paolo Hubalde added 13 points apiece for Barako Bull, which will try to keep its playoff hopes alive when it plays defending champion Purefoods Star next Tuesday.
The rarely used Salva came off the bench to score 10 points for Barako.
Meralco 98 - Davis 32, Hugnatan 21, David 14, Hodge 8, Wilson 7, Dillinger 4, Ferriols 4, Cortez 4, Ildefonso 2, Caram 2, Reyes 0, Buenafe 0, Anthony 0, Sena 0, Macapagal 0.
Barako 85 - Alabi 14, Hubalde 13, Lanete 13, Intal 10, Salva 10, Lastimosa 7, Garcia 6, Pascual 6, Marcelo 2, Matias 2, Chua 0, Mercado 0, Salvador 0, Paredes 0, Sorongon 0.
Quarterscores: 24-20, 49-38, 70-61, 98-85