FINALS: Powerade Tigers 1 - 3 Talk N Text Tropang Texters
Meralco derailed Powerade’s entry into the quarterfinal stage after pulling off a hard-earned 100-98 win in the 2011-12 PBA Philippine Cup Friday night at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

The Bolts needed a pair of defensive stops from Gabby Espinas to preserve the win and boost their own chance for a possible playoff for the No. 2 spot as they improved their mark to 8-5.

The loss also ended the Tigers’ two-game run, and dropped their win-loss record to 5-8 slate. It also meant that Alaska (3-9) is still in contention for the last quarterfinal seat.
Sol Mercado led Meralco with 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field, while Mark Cardona added 17 points.

But it was Espinas’s exploits that mattered most for the Bolts, as the former Philippine Christian University swatted two attempts in succession to secure the win.

“It was not easy game at all,” said Bolts head coach Ryan Gregorio, who also drew 14 points and 11 rebounds from Espinas. “Powerade is making big strides. But I told the players we have to make stops in the end.”

With Gary David slowed down by foul trouble, Meralco managed to dictate the tempo of the physical game. Cardona’s lay-up off a defensive miscue by Marcio Lassiter put the Bolts ahead, 96-91, with 2:05 remaining in the game.

Chico Lanete stretched his team’s lead to 98-92, before David returned to the game and buried a quick triple with 1:33 left.

Espinas hit a 17-foot jumper in the next play and blocked the drive of Doug Kramer in the ensuing possession. Sean Anthony collared the loose ball for the Tigers and drove the lane, but his attempt was also swatted by Espinas.

Asi Taulava missed two free throws with 20.5 seconds left in the game to give Powerade another chance to catch up. But JVee Casio and David missed their three-point attempts before Lassiter closed out the game with a last-second trey.

“We know we are in the playoffs,” said Gregorio. “The most number of wins we have in a conference was seven. We are up against ourselves. We have a chance to get better in terms of number of wins in the eliminations.”

The Bolts will face Barangay Ginebra on Sunday for their final game in the eliminations.

David led all scorers with 25 points while Kramer added 16 points and 11 boards for Powerade. Casio netted 13 points, but only managed two points in the second half.

The scores:

MERALCO 100 – Mercado 23, Cardona 17, Espinas 14, Lanete 9, Macapagal 9, Hugnatan 6, Yee 5, Taulava 5, Borboran 4, Isip 4, Omolon 4, Timberlake 0.

POWERADE 98 – David 25, Kramer 16, Anthony 14, Casio 13, Lassiter 9, Vanlandingham 7, Lingganay 6, Adducul 6, Cruz 2, Crisano 0, Antonio 0.

Quarters: 24-22, 49, 54, 76-76, 100-98


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