by Tito S. Talao
Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
2:45 p.m. – Barako Bull vs San Miguel Beer
5:15 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs San Mig Super Coffee
Manila, Philippines – First impressions really do last as even a 23-point loss to Talk ‘N Text wasn’t enough to place Brian Butch’s tenure with the Meralco Bolts in jeopardy.
Holding the Meralco franchise to one of its lowest outputs last night, the undefeated Tropang Texters roared to their fifth straight win following a methodical dismantling of the Bolts, 91-68, in the PLDT Home TVolution PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.
TNT allowed just 2 deadlocks and 3 leadchanges throughout, and Meralco was in the game only in the first quarter before the Texters seized control. It was 43-33 at halftime, after only two Bolt players scored in the second period, and 68-49 at three-quarters end.
“It was a good defensive effort, a good team effort on our part,” said TNT coach Norman Black. “If you look at our schedule, it’s important for us to get as many wins as possible; that’s the way it is. Getting to the top two is the only advantage you’ll have.”
The quarterfinal playoffs offer twice-to-beat incentives to the No. 1 and No. 2 teams when they face the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds, respectively.
“So whatever success we’re having now, we want to continue that,” said Black.
Star guard Jimmy Alapag shared Black’s views even as he insisted their winning margin was immaterial.
“I think we were just solid defensively, Rich (Howell) did a great on the boards, and we really moved the ball well and got the best shot possible in a possession,” said Alapag, who took just three shots in 24 minutes, getting all the rest he needs in preparation for a forthcoming battle.
“The score didn’t really dictate how we did,” he said. “We’re just trying to get going. All our focus was on tonight’s game. Now that it’s done, our focus will be on Ginebra on Sunday.”
Ranidel de Ocampo, who took on the 6-foot-11 Butch and had some extremely physical exchanges with the Bolts import early on, had 15 points on 6 of 8 shooting while Jayson Castro and Larry Fonacier each had a quiet 14.
Except for Howell, who had 13 points and 22 rebounds in 39 minutes, no TNT player was inside longer than 26 minutes as Black had the luxury of shuffling his 14-man roster in the wake of Meralco’s flickering challenge.
Butch led the Bolts with 16 points, going 2 of 7 from 3-point range and 4 of 14 from within, numbers that don’t usually earn an import an extended stay, especially if one’s replacement is already in town.
But Ryan Gregorio, the Bolts coach, is unfazed.
“Brian has played great basketball for three starts and this is actually his first bad game,” said Gregorio. “Our focus is still on him.”
Asked if he hadn’t seen enough to bring in former NBA player Darnell Jackson, who flew in a few days ago and had actually joined the Bolts in practice, Gregorio said, “Our schedule is too tight. We have a game on Sunday and then on Wednesday. We’ll evaluate after Sunday’s game (against Air21).”
Neither is Gregorio bothered by their second loss in four games, which dropped them a rung in the standings from solo 4th to a share of 5th spot with Air21.
“Our stretch goal is to win three games every series,” he said. “Going 2-1 is not negative points for us. All we have to do is shake it off and bounce back.”
Ginebra 113, Globalport 107
In the main offering, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel survived a late charge by Globalport to hack a 113-107 victory.
Leon Rodgers led the way for the Kings with 33 points while Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand had 15 and 14 points respectively.
The win allowed Ginebra to improve to a 2-2 record while Globalport suffered its fifth straight loss for the conference.
TALK N’ TEXT 91 – De Ocampo 15, Castro 14, Fonacier 14, Howell 13, Carey 11, Canaleta 9, Williams 7, Salamat 2, Baclao 2, Alapag 2, Reyes Ro. 1, Reyes Ry. 1, Aban 0, Reyes J. 0.
MERALCO 68 – Butch 16, Wilson 11, David 8, Caram 5, Hugnatan 5, Mandani 5, Ildefonso 4, Hodge 4, Salvacion 3, Dillinger 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Guevarra 2, Bringas 0.
Quarterscores: 28-24, 43-33, 68-49, 91-68
GINEBRA 113 – Rodgers 33, Caguioa 15, Helterbrand 14, Tenorio 11, Aguilar 10, Baracael 9, Mamaril 7, Ellis 6, Slaughter 5, Urbiztondo 2, Reyes 1.
GLOBALPORT 107 – Brock 36, Cabagnot 16, Macapagal 14, Matias 10, Romeo 10, Washington 7, Nabong 4, Ponferrada 4, Chua 2, Garcia 2, Custodio 2, Salva 0, Salvador 0.
Quarterscores: 25-28, 53-52, 87-78, 113-107.