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PBA: Meralco battles Barako

Calvin Abueva and Gary David

by Waylon Galvez

Manila, Philippines – Three-time defending champion Talk N’ Text hopes to avoid the scare it experienced in an 87-80 overtime win over Barako Bull when it battles tail-ender Air21 today in the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Tropang Texters are heavily favored over the Express in their 5:45 p.m. encounter but coach Norman Black wants nothing but consistency from his players right from the get go after squandering a 23-point first half lead against the Energy Cola last Friday.

In that game, TNT led 37-14 in the second quarter and had a 57-44 edge entering the final period when Barako stormed back to force an extra five-minute period.

It took the heroics of Jayson Castro and Ranidel Ocampo in the extension to seal the Texters’ fifth win in seven outings for solo third in the standings.

“We’re in a roller-coaster ride. Fortunately in the end we held on to win the game,” said Black, as his team shot 34-of-99 (34.3%) from the field including 8-of-34 (23.5%) from three-point territory.

“There is something we need to fix but a win is a win,” added the multi-titled coach. Castro posted 23 points, six rebounds and nine assists in that win while de Ocampo finished with 17 points and 10 boards for a double-double. Larry Fonacier and Kelly Williams added 13 and 10 points, respectively.

TNT will continue to miss the services of veteran guard Jimmy Alapag because of a strained groin muscle but Black said his ace playmaker will be available in their next game against Petron Blaze on Saturday next week.

Air21 has lost its last two games, including a 78-69 setback to Barangay Ginebra where Express center Asi Taulava struggled against the Kings’ twin towers Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter.

Equally exciting is the 3 p.m. opener between Meralco and Barako Bull as both teams try to snap their losing skids.

Barako has lost its last six after a 2-0 start while Meralco is on a two-game slide after falling to Alaska, 91-82, last Wednesday.

“Hopefully we can stop the skid and win against Meralco. We were close of doing that in our previous games. We’re still confident that we can win games. We just have to be focused,” said Barako Bull coach Bong Ramos.