MANILA, Philippines—In only his first game back, Sol Mercado immediately showed what he could do for the Meralco Bolts.
Exploding for 16 points, Mercado paced Meralco in blemishing Petron Blaze’s record with a 80-70 triumph Sunday in the 2011 PBA Philippine Cup.
Mercado, who missed the first four games of the conference, also notched five rebounds and four assists while providing relentless spark, which helped Meralco maintain the advantage all throughout the game.
“I wanted to test how my legs felt. But I played basketball all my so it’s just like riding a bike,” said Mercado, who scored 11 of his total points in the first half.
The Bolts, who moved on to a commendable 3-2 record, thrived in the highly defensive affair while also dominating the boards—which proved to be the key in the win.
“Our defense will keep us afloat,” said Meralco head coach Ryan Gregorio.
Gabby Espinas and Asi Taulava took turns in manning the paint as they plucked down 12 and nine rebounds, respectively, and combined for 22 points.
Taulava heated up in the fourth quarter to freeze Meralco’s lead, muscling his way inside as he even pulled off a one-handed throwdown for a 65-57 lead with three minutes to play.
Petron, which suffered its first loss in the conference, struggled to find rhythm in the offensive end although it kept grinding on defense all night.
Arwind Santos led all scorers with 17 points, 13 rebounds and also three of his squad’s eight blocks, but Petron couldn’t convert on the opportunity after his defense stop with 1:20 left in the game.
The Boosters had trimmed the deficit down to 75-70 when Santos swatted Espinas’ attempt, but they ultimately failed to score down the stretch.
Rookie Chris Lutz, who has been a consistent threat for Petron, added 16 points.
The scores:MERALCO 80—Mercado 16, Espinas 14, Lanete 9, taulava 8, Isip 7, Faundo 6, Macapagal 6, Omolon 6, Borboran 5, Yee 3, Ballesteros 0.
PETRON BLAZE 70—Santos 17, Lutz 16, Yeo 11, Miranda 7, Cabagnot 6, Ildefonso 6, Agustin 3, Baclao 2, Sharma 2, Guevarra 0, Reyes 0.
Quarters: 18-17, 36-30, 58-49, 80-70