REYNEL Hugnatan capped his game-long brilliance for Meralco with two foul shots that sealed the Bolts’ hard-earned 112-108 double-overtime win over hard-fighting Barako Bull in the PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Hugnatan, who turns 36 next month, played with fire in his eyes and scored on numerous putbacks and short jumpers despite playing as the team’s undersized center to finish with a career-high 28 points.
The effort of the veteran big man was enough to reward Norman Black his first win as Meralco coach.
But Black was the first to admit the Energy team which the Bolts handily defeated during the preseason by 15 points, is not the same as the one they faced on this night.
“That was a well-earned victory for us. Barako Bull was very inspired with their new coach tonight,” Black said after the game as the Bolts spoiled the coaching debut of newly-promoted Barako Bull mentor Koy Banal.
Banal was appointed Energy coach just days before the opening of the league’s 40th season, taking over from the fired Siot Tanquingcen.
It was indeed, a gratifying win for the Bolts, who trailed by as many as 15 points midway through the second period.
But with Hugnatan leading the way, Meralco staged a second half comeback in tandem with Fil-Canadian Sean Anthony, who chipped in 14 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and added three steals.
Barako Bull drew 21 points from offseason acquisition Chico Lanete, who forced the second overtime following his gutsy layup off Hugnatan’s outstretched arms.
JC Intal added 20, while Willy Wilson chipped in 16 and six rebounds for the Energy, who ruled the Visayas pocket tournament last month.
MERALCO (112) - Hugnatan 28, Anthony 14, Wilson 13, Atkins 10, Hodge 10, Ferriols 10, Dillinger 7, David 6, Cortez 4, Sena 4, Guevarra 4, Morrison 2, Buenafe 0, Ildefonso 0, Macapagal 0.
BARAKO (108) - Lanete 21, Intal 20, Wilson 16, Miranda 15, Garcia 14, Lastimosa 6, Pennisi 5, Marcelo 4, Pascual 4, Fortuna 3, Salva 0, Salvador 0, Paredes 0.
Quarterscores: 19-25; 45-54; 71-76; 90-90 (reg); 101-101 (1st OT); 112-108.