MANILA, Philippines - There were a lot of smiles and a bucket load of positive energy emanating from the Meralco Bolts bench on Monday, April 14 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
They had good reason to celebrate for one night, at least, as they pounded on a lousy San Mig Super Coffee Mixers, 88-78, to end up at 5-4 and on solo 4th place in the 2014 PLDT Home TVolution PBA Commissioner's Cup.
"We wanted to put our spirit to the test against a champion team," said Meralco head coach Ryan Gregorio after another spirited game for his wards, who have been winning in come-from-behind fashion several times this conference. "And we were rewarded with a victory primarily because of the effort that we rendered."
Meralco looked like they are the team peaking at the right time, exploding in the third and embarrassing the Mixers with an 18-2 blast straight out of the locker room.
The Bolts turned a 41-39 halftime deficit into a 57-43 advantage at the 7:09 mark of the third frame after Gary David scored his second of back-to-back baskets.
But after Cone rallied his sloppy troops, the Mixers managed to string some points together for a 58-66 tally still favoring the Bolts heading into the final frame.
Unfortunately for the back-to-back champions, Meralco never cooled down in the payoff period as they continued to capitalize on a Mixers squad that was anything but cohesive.
San Mig caved in the fourth and couldn't execute their plays. They continued to pile on turnovers until it reached 21, allowing Meralco 22 points off of it.
And despite getting 35 cracks at the basket from the free throw line, they made only 23. Meralco, meanwhile, went to the line sparingly going 7-of-9.
Despite the 33 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals of import James Mays, his effort did not translate to a victory as the Mixers absorbed their second straight loss, which sent them to 4-4 tied with Rain or Shine at 5th place.
PJ Simon and Alex Mallari were the only two other Mixers in double figures with 13 and 12 markers, respectively as James Yap and Mark Barroca endured a shooting off night. They came up with only 8 and 4 points, respectively.
To add to their woes, San Mig was playing minus their hustle guy Marc Pingris, who is nursing a rib injury he sustained last Saturday against the San Miguel Beermen.
Meralco, on the other hand, was doing everything right. Whatever hustle on defense they made almost immediately turned into points on the other end. And whatever they fed to the basket resulted into more positive numbers on the stat sheet as well into cheers from an orange crowd.
The Bolts built their biggest lead with 1:28 left on the clock after Jared Dillinger scored his 21st point. The closest the Mixers came was early in the last quarter, 66-60, on a Mallari bucket.
"When you go up against a team like San Mig Coffee you just can't show up and expect to win the game," Gregorio said. "You have to play with maximum effort and above average intelligence, and that's what we did, especially in the third quarter."
Meralco import Darnell Jackson amassed 31 points, 18 boards, 4 dimes and two steals for an excellent showing highlighted by a one-handed throwdown midway in the fourth off a lob pass from David.
Dillinger, who has been explosive for Meralco for the past two games, recorded 21 points on 3 triples. David added 18 markers as well.
Meralco (88) - Jackson 31, Dillinger 21, David 18, Hugnatan 6, Sena 4, Timberlake 2, Guevarra 2, Wilson 2, Hodge 2.
San Mig Coffee (78) - Mays 33, Simon 13, Mallari 12, Yap 8, Devance 4, Barroca 4, Cawaling 2, Reavis 2, De Ocampo 0, Sangalang 0.
Quarterscores: 26-18, 39-41, 66-58, 88-78.