Andre Emmett’s 34 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, and impressive crunchtime composure powered the Meralco Bolts to a much needed 102-99 victory over the struggling Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A 4-0 start put Ginebra in the driver’s seat early in the first period, and a combined 12 early points from their towering starting frontcourt paved the way for the Gin Kings to control the flow. After trailing for most of the opening minutes, a 6-2 rally capped by a Mike Cortez triple knotted the score at 14-all with around four minutes left to play. Bolstered by five points from LA Tenorio, Ginebra responded with a 9-0 run to pull away anew. At the end of the first 12 minutes, the lead was still with Ginebra, 28-23.
Baskets from Solomon Mercado and Greg Slaughter paved the way for Ginebra to take the first double-digit lead of the game, 33-23, four minutes into the second. Jared Dillinger led the Bolts’ bid to return to contention, scoring four points in the 9-4 rally that followed. Then, five unanswered points capped by a bucket from Reynel Hugnatan knotted the score at 48-all, with less than a minute left on the clock. A sneaky basket just before the buzzer gave Meralco the lead at the half, 50-48.
The second half opened to a trade of baskets and leads between the two squads, with a revitalized Andre Emmet holding the fort for Meralco, and Solomon Mercado and Greg Slaughter leading the charge for Ginebra. Back to back baskets from Emmet with around six minutes on the clock have Meralco a four-point lead and the driver’s seat for the next few minutes of play. A bucket from Ginebra’s Korean reinforcement, Jhiwan Kim, knotted the score at 71-all with four minutes left. He followed it up with two free throws that gave Ginebra back the lead. The Gin Kings would manage to protect their lead this time, closing out the quarter with an 80-75 lead.
The tides, however, would turn once more in the fourth quarter, with the Meralco gunners collaborating for a 13-2 run that gave them the lead once again. At the losing end of the game of runs that had persisted over the course of the entire game, it was the worn out Ginebra’s turn once more to nip at the Bolts heels as the two-minute mark approached. With two minutes left, the lead was still with Meralco, 97-94.
Ginebra reinforcement, Orlando Johnson, had the chance to stuff the easy bucket and trim the lead to a thread at the 1:37 mark, but found his shot erased by a monster block from his Meralco counterpart, Emmet. The Gin kings, however, were given the chance to make up for the vanquished play after a Meralco turnover in the next possession. Two charities from Japeth Aguilar put Ginebra within striking distance, 96-97, with 1:17 left.
Meralco’s Emmett made the best out of the next possession, sinking a floater in traffic to extend the lead to three. Ginebra’s Aguilar rose to the ocassion on the other end, sinking the surprise triple to tie the game at 99-all, 42 seconds left on the clock. Emmett mailed back the quick response, sinking an easy jumper on the other end to take back the lead, 32.9 on the clock. After a won ball by the Bolts, Emmett followed up his heroics with a split free throw to make it a three-point game once more.
With no timeouts left, the Gin Kings looked to Solomon Mercado for the hail mary game-saver. His shot, however, would miss the basket, ending all hope for the Barangay faithful.
Andre Emmet was named Player of the Game for his monster offensive output and lategame heroics. Orlando Johnson led Ginebra with 25 points of his own. Meralco improves to 5-4, while the struggling Ginebra squads slides to 3-6.
Meralco (102) – Emmett 34, Hugnatan 12, Dillinger 12, Ando 12, David 10, Hodge 7, Cortez 6, Nabong 4, Ildefonso 3, Anthony 2
Ginebra (99) – Johnson 25, Slaughter 21, Aguilar 18, Mercado 13, Kim 12, Tenorio 10,
Quarters: 23-28, 50-48, 75-80, 102-99