by Tito S. Talao
Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
8 p.m. – San Miguel vs Globalport
Manila, Philippines – The Polar Bear isn’t going anywhere just yet – not in the Arctic, not back in the States, not even out of a Meralco Bolts uniform.
“Ask me in a couple of hours,” Bolts coach Ryan Gregorio sheepishly told sportswriters after import Brian Butch, who reportedly was headed home, posted spellbinding numbers as Meralco rallied from 20 points down to beat the Air21 Express, 109-98, yesterday in the PLDT Home TVolution PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Nicknamed after the thick-furred, cotton-white animal that roams the North Pole, the 6-foot-11 Butch unloaded 40 points and grabbed 31 rebounds to send the Bolts coaching staff in a spin and put on hold the phone call to bring out NBA veteran Darnell Jackson from the shadows.
“This is unheard of, completely off the chart,” said Gregorio, momentarily stunned when Butch, who apparently had no inkling the Air21 game could have been his last, walked into the press room and joined him for the post-game interview.
Beaming, Butch playfully grabbed Gregorio by the collar as he stepped into the dais and then put his thoughts on the game and his relationship with his teammates in words that were profound, candid and emotion-filled which the Bolts mentor quietly digested.
“Nice speech,” said Gregorio as Butch concluded his remarks and rose to left.
Asked whether they were prepared to let Butch go before the game, Gregorio struggled for an answer, allowing only that he would be meeting with top management and his coaching staff later in the day in a bid to find a solution to the dilemma.
Meralco improved to 4-2 at 4th spot while Air21 slid to 2-4.
In the nightcap, Ranidel de Ocampo scored 28 points while import Richard Howell added 19 points and 23 rebounds as Talk ‘N Text downed Barangay Ginebra, 94-87, to stretch its unbeaten record to 6-0.
Jayson Castro and Ryan Reyes had 11 points each while Larry Fonacier chipped in 10 markers, including a three-pointer late that gave the Tropang Texters a 92-85 lead.
Leon Rodgers finished with 32 points for Ginebra, which dropped to 2-3.