MANILA, Philippines -- Meralco overcame a lethargic start and made an amazing effort to gobble up a big 22-point second-quarter deficit, turning back Barako Bull, 105-98, to formalize its quarterfinals entry in the PLDT Home TVolution PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City Friday night.
With a solid team effort, the Bolts closed in, 73-74, at the end of the third period, finally took the lead, 78-74, at the start of the fourth and roared all the way to steal the win and improve to solo fifth with an even 4-4 win-loss card.
The Bolts got themselves in a good position to make the best-of-three quarterfinals while pushing the Energy Cola, at 2-6, on the brink of elimination.
“We started flat but in the game of basketball, you don’t lose in the first, second or third quarter. You just have to play until the end,” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio.
“We’re down by 22 but this game is too important for us to let slip away,” Gregorio added. “If that’s the identity of the team being comeback kids, I don’t mind for as long as we win in the end.”
Numerous Meralco players stepped up in their final-half turnaround, including Fil-Am guard Chris Timberlake who sizzled with a career-best 12 points on 4-of-5 field shooting and 4-of-4 free throws in his first outing in the mid-season tourney. Curiously, he was scoreless in all seven games he played in the Philippine Cup.
Timberlake himself tossed in two charities that gave Meralco its first taste of the lead at 75-74.
The Bolts didn’t score a single point in the first five minutes of the contest and needed to mount a searing rally from a 22-point deficit at 22-44 to break free from a four-way logjam at fifth place with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, the Air21 Express and the Barangay Ginebra Kings.
Jarred Dillinger, John Wilson, Cliff Hodge, Gary David, Reynel Hugnatan and import Darnell Jackson played key roles in their fightback with David and Jackson teaming up in a nine-to-nothing tear that put the team in control, 96-88, entering the last three minutes of play.
Hugnatan scored on an attack to the basket then hit a charity as Meralco sealed the win, 99-92, with under a minute left in the clock.
Jackson piled up 10 points in the last seven minutes and finished with 30 while Dillinger, David, Wilson, Timberlake and Hudge added at least 10.
Wilson struck hard in the third quarter allowing the Bolts to come within one, 73-74, after trailing by 12, 42-54, at the half.