After six conferences in the PBA, the Meralco Bolts have broken through to the league’s semifinals.
On Wednesday night at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum, the Bolts beat down a Powerade squad playing its second game in as many nights, 94-84, to march to the next round of the Governors’ Cup.
Import Mario West played another steady game, finishing with 26 points, eight rebounds and four steals, while also working double time defending Gary David.
The rest of the Bolts did their share in outsprinting and outgunning the entire Tigers crew, which has overachieved this season.
“I told my players before the start of the game that we Filipinos are not equipped to play back-to-back games, so I mentioned to them that our advantage is our running legs,” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio, whose team had more fastbreak points, 20-6, and turnover points, 22-11, than the Tigers.
Meralco’s victory completed the semifinals cast for the season-ending conference, joining Rain or Shine, B-MEG, Talk ‘N Text, Petron and Ginebra in the next round.
Gregorio put the Meralco franchise’s feat in perspective.
“The hardest is always the breakthrough,” said Gregorio. “We nearly made it to the semis last conference, but we made sure our second one won’t slip away. We made it to the playoffs in two of the three conferences this season. But tonight’s game is about effort.”
The Bolts were helped by the fact that six teams made the semifinals this conference, as opposed to four teams in the first two tournaments of the season.
David, who was nursing an ankle injury, finished the game with 22 points, but was held to only five in the second half by the tight defense of West.
As a team, Meralco also did well in shackling Powerade, particularly in the third period when the Bolts held the Tigers to a lone field goal in a four-minute stretch.
That triggered the Bolts’ 19-6 run as they posted a 67-54 lead, 3:32 left in the third.
Meralco (94) – West 26, Cardona 24, Hugnatan 14, Mercado 10, Reyes 6, Taulava 6, Macapagal 4, Ross 2, Artadi 2, Bulawan 0.
Powerade (86) – Sneed 29, David 22, Casio 9, Salvador 7, Anthony 6, Guevarra 4, Tugade 4, Adducul 3, Belasco 2, Martinez 0, Lingganay 0, Vanlandingham 0.
Quarters: 18-25, 44-45, 69-60, 94-86
Source: Reynaldo Belen, InterAKTV