MERALCO clamped down on defense down the stretch to turn back defending champion Rain or Shine, 82-76, and keep its lofty place in the standings of the PBA Governors’ Cup on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Filipino-Americans Chris Ross and Cliff Hodge made two crucial blocks in the endgame as the Bolts repulsed the last of numerous rallies launched by the Elasto Painters in the second half.
The Bolts improved to a 4-2 win-loss record to claim solo second place, breaking a tie with their victims, who slid to an even 3-3 slate.
“With great effort, the reward is greater,” said an ecstatic Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio. “We still want to continue to climb the ladder with defense as our strongest armor.”
Trailing, 76-79, the Painters had several chances to close the gap, among them a Paul Lee layup off a nicely executed play off the timeout that was deflected by Ross, and another Jeff Chan layup that was blocked by Hodge.
“We really dug deep. It was again a defensive struggle and that’s the only way to win,” said the eloquent Gregorio, whose team limited the Painters to a 35.2 percent shooting from the field as oppose to the Bolts’ 43.5 percent.
Aside from Ross and Hodge, another local in John Wilson stood out, pacing Meralco with 18 points along with five boards, three assists, and one steal. Hodge finished with 17 points, five boards, three steals, and two blocks, while Ross chipped in six assists and four points.
Meralco import Mario West churned in 17 markers, while Rain or Shine counterpart Arizona Reid tallied 22 points and missed a double-double by one rebound in a losing effort.
Without rookie guard Chris Tiu, who missed the first of two excused absences for a business trip abroad, skipper Jireh Ibañes registered his best offensive game for the Painters this conference with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go with eight boards.
Meralco (82) -- Wilson 18, Hodge 17, West 17, Hugnatan 8, Guevarra 6, Reyes 6, Ross 4, Timberlake 4, Allado 2, Cardona 0.
Rain or Shine (76) -- Reid 22, Ibañes 18, Quiñahan 9, Lee 5, Cruz 5, Belga 5, Matias 3, Norwood 3, Tang 2, Chan 2, Araña 2, Rodriguez 0.
Quarterscores: 21-20; 44-37; 66-59; 82-76.