RONJAY Buenafe and Sol Mercado rescued Meralco from the jaws of defeat, hitting the key baskets in the endgame to eke out a tough 101-92 victory over woeful Globalport in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Friday night.
The Bolts snapped out of a two-game slump and improved their record to 6-5, fortifying their hold of fourth spot in the standings.
On the other hand, the Batang Pier’s miseries continued after dropping their seventh straight game to remain at the cellar with an abysmal 1-10 slate.
The loss put a serious dent on the quarterfinals aspirations of Globalport, which drew a season-high 33 points from Gary David.
“It’s a very gratifying win after an emotional loss against Rain or Shine,” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio, whose team is coming off an emotionally-draining 102-98 overtime loss to the Elasto Painters two days ago.
“For tonight’s game, I had to ask help from my coaches. I’m glad they were with me all the way. Of course, when you lose like that against Rain or Shine, you’ll have a hard time getting sleep… I am so blessed to have solid coaches, are unselfish enough to help, and get us back on the winning track,” he added.
Globalport hung on to the coattails of Meralco for much part of the game, thanks to the heady plays of David, rookie Vic Manuel, and Rey Guevara and forged an 83-all count in the final 4:13.
But Buenafe knocked down a three-point shot that touched off a 10-0 blast, capped by a Mercado basket.
“The message I had for the team in today’s game is pretty much a lesson on humility. We weren’t able to handle success the positive way. Bully basketball is not part of our character,” noted the Meralco coach.
The Batang Pier shot themselves on the foot after turning the ball over 22 times, which the Bolts converted to 21 points.
Globalport surprisingly beat Meralco off the boards, though the team’s poor field goal shooting hastened its downfall.
Macmac Cardona, who had a roller-coaster performance this conference, led the Bolts with 26 points, while Mercado finished with 24 and nine assists.
Rookie big man Kelly Nabong came out with a breakthrough game as he had 18 points, 11 rebounds, and two assists, helping the Bolts avenge their 105-104 first round defeat against the Batang Pier.
Meantime, Guevarra and Manuel supported David with 20 and 15 points, respectively to cover Willie Miller’s poor shooting night.
Miller, the two-time league Most Valuable Player, finished the game with just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting from the field and committed six turnovers.
Meralco (101) -- Cardona 26, Mercado 24, Nabong 18, Buenafe 14, Hugnatan 10, Hodge 2, Ross 2, Borboran 2, Salvacion 2, Reyes 1, Artadi 0.
Globalport (92) -- David 33, Guevarra 20, Manuel 15, Miller 7, Al-Hussaini 5, Mandani 4, Deutchman 3, Vanlandingham 3, Salvador 2, Lingganay 0, Yee 0, Vergara 0, Adducul 0.
Quarterscores: 22-21, 48-42, 70-66, 101-92.