MERALCO hardly showed any rust from a 10-day layoff after routing a disoriented Barako Bull side, 99-86, to forge a four-way tie for second place in the PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts were sharp on both ends of the floor, hustling on defense and scoring at will from both inside and out against a Barako Bull team raring to bounce back after a controversial loss to San Mig Coffee three days earlier.
“We pretty much made sure we will match the emotions of Barako and the best way really is to play defense. We did a great job defending them and limiting them to 86 points,” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio.
Meralco’s go-to-guy Sol Mercado was in his element, particularly in the second period, scoring 16 points in that stretch as the Bolts took a 53-40 at the half.
From there, Mercado’s supporting cast of Ronjay Buenafe, Mark Cardona, rookie Fil-Am Cliff Hodge and Sunday Salvacion threw in their own contributions to defuse Barako Bull’s fourth-quarter rally, allowing Meralco to join idle Rain or Shine, Alaska, and first game winner San Mig Coffee in joint second place with identical 4-2 records.
Meralco’s merciless defense held the Energy Cola to just 37.8 percent shooting from the field (28-of-74). The Bolts were particularly effective in shutting down center Enrico Villanueva, who shot a miserable 1-of-13 from the field. He did finish with 13 points, though his 11 points all came from the stripe.
Mercado led the Bolts with 22 points, six rebounds and six assists in a well-rounded game, while Buenafe and Cardona each added 16 apiece.
The Energy Cola, who dropped to 2-5, drew 14 points each from Josh Urbiztondo and Doug Kramer.
Meralco (99) - Mercado 22, Buenafe 16, Cardona 16, Hugnatan 12, Hodge 8, Salvacion 8, Borboran 6, Reyes 5, Artadi 4, Sharma 2, Bulawan 0
Barako Bull (86) - Urbiztondo 14, Kramer 14, Villanueva 13, Najorda 13, Yap 9, Tubid 7, Pennisi 7, Marcelo 3, Co 2, Alvarez 2, Anthony 2, Ballesteros 0
Quarterscores: 19-21, 53-40, 78-79, 98-86