The Meralco Bolts put an end to a two-game skid, after outgunning Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in a fourth quarter shootout, 109-99, Friday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
After proving to be the quicker draw in a virtual shootout in the opening period, Barangay Ginebra took hold of the lead, 26-24, to the end the quarter. Things however took a massive turn in the second quarter, after the Bolts went on a 15-0 run in the first six minutes, giving them a 39-24 lead halfway through the period, before a lay-up from Japeth Aguilar finally put an end to the cold spell. Though Ginebra would manage to trim the margin, hot shooting from Cliff Hodge kept the Bolts ahead of the race, and at the half, Meralco was still in the driver’s seat, 53-44.
Ginebra guard Mark Caguioa was recognized early in the first quarter after he entered the PBA 9,000 point club, after scoring four straight points off back-to-back lay-up baskets. Caguoia, who entered the PBA as a rookie in 2001, is the only current active player to have scored at least 9,000 points.
A highly-physical game saw Meralco continue to be the better-shooting team, managing to fire back for every basket sunk by the Gin Kings and finding success at the free throw line, where Ginebra struggled to shoot from early in the quarter. Finally finding his touch after a quiet first half, Greg Slaughter exploded for 16 points in the third to keep the fire alive for Ginebra. The Bolts led by ten, 81-71, in the final minute of the quarter, but Ginebra went on a quick 6-0 rally to cut the lead to 77-81 shortly before the buzzer.
Meralco once again proved to be the quicker draw in the ensuing shootout early in the fourth quarter, with gunner Gary David nailing one for every basket sunk by Ginebra. Ginebra came within striking distance several times in the opening minutes, but the lead was padded once more thanks to the hot-shooting duo of David and Anjo Caram.
Meralco suffered a serious setback when leading scorer Hodge fouled out with two minutes left on the clock. Following two successful free throw charities from Japeth Aguilar, Ginebra was able to trim down the margin to a manageable four, 99-103. Ginebra team captain LA Tenorio had the chance to bring the Gin Kings within reach with a corner trey, but the shot bounced off the rim. Slaughter was able to corral the miss, but likewise was unable to sink the put-back. The nail in the coffin came at the other end, after a baseline jumper from Reynel Hugnatan extended the lead to six, 105-99, with less than a minute to play. Two more successful free throws from David in the next possession sealed the deal for the Bolts.
Jared Dillinger won Player of the Game honors with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Hodge had 18 points and 5 rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Last year’s Rookie of the Year Slaughter led Ginebra with 24 points and 13 rebounds off the bench.
Meralco is back to above .500, improving to 4-3. Ginebra meanwhile slides down to fourth place in the standings at 5-3.
Photo courtesy of Nuki Sabio of PBA Images