2014 PBA Commissioner’s Cup: Brian Butch and Ranide De Ocampo wax hot as Meralco and TNT earn wins!

Brian Butch unloaded 40 big ones as the Bolts pulled the rug from under Express, while RDO’s 28-point explosion pushed the Texters past the Gin Kings.

Top: Brian Butch celebrates after hitting a big three in the fourth quarter.
Bottom: Ranidel De Ocampo slips past Japeth Aguilar.
(composite image by Enzo Flojo/Hoop Nut)

In the opener, Meralco rallied in the fourth to beat Air 21, 109-98. 

Is there anyone who still doubts that Brian Butch is the NBA D-League’s version of Dirk Nowitzki? Butch came up big here, scoring half of his 40-point output in the final 12 minutes of play as the Bolts roared back from being 18 points down at the end of the third quarter to steal this game from the Express. Butch nailed 4 triples in all, making more than half of his 24 field goal attempts. He also hauled down THIRTY ONE rebounds while also handing out 3 assists and blocking 3 shots. Without him, the Bolts would definitely NOT be among the top four teams in the team standings.

The Express were in a prime position to win, leading by 20 points with about a minute to go in the third period. They also wasted the huge 44-point debut effort of Wesley Witherspoon. He shot 12/18 from the field, including making 8 treys while also grabbing 9 boards. The writing was on the wall, however, as the Bolts outrebounded Air 21, 58-45, and outdid them in assists, 19-10. It also didn’t help that the Express lost their shooting touch in the final canto. They eventually ended up shooting under 40% from the floor.

Daring Dillinger: After an so-so start to the conference, the bearded Gilas pool standout was outstanding here, scoring 20 points on 8/13 FG shooting while also grabbing 4 boards and dishing out 8 dimes for Meralco. He came up big in the payoff period, too, hitting big shot after big shot in tandem with Butch to propel the Bolts’ amazing fightback. Hey, if Dillinger can continue to wax this hot, then Meralco might just be a dark horse contender in the knockout phase.

In the main game, the Texters went up to 6-0 after pounding the Gin Kings, 94-87. TNT made life difficult for Mark Caguioa and LA Tenorio in this one, and the Texters were able to hammer out their sixth straight win to remain unscathed atop the standings. With the Kings having trouble executing their vaunted pick-and-roll offense, coach Norman Black’s Texters outdid their foes in assists (26-16) and forced them to more turnovers (11-8). TNT will have a seven-day rest coming up, but things get tough from there as they take on the previous conference’s finalists, San Mig Super Coffee and Rain or Shine, before ending the elims against the also-ran GlobalPort Batang Pier.

Japeth Aguilar ended up with just 5 points and 2 rebounds here, shooting 1/6 from the floor in just 20 minutes of play. The dip in his production is notable, especially considering how he was one of the frontrunners for last conference’s Best Player award. The Gilas big man’s efficiency rating has gone down from the high 30s in the Philippine Cup to just 25.8 EFF in the Commish Cup. Of course, perhaps one can attribute this to the fact that import Leon Rodgers plays a similar position at the stretch 4, but I believe this is also a clear manifestation of how Ginebra has gone away from what was working for them early in the season. Here’s to hoping Aguilar gets back on-track.

RaniDirk: Ranidel De Ocampo may just be the most versatile offensive power forward in the PBA. He has a solid low block game, he can hit the three, and he can drive to the hole. All these he demonstrated against Ginebra in this game as the Gilas player shot 11/19 from the field to finish with 28 markers. He hit 4 triples while also finding seams in Ginebra’s interior D. If the Texter go deep into the knockout phase, then don’t be surprised if RDO becomes a leading candidate for the Best Player of the Conference.

Game Recaps:

MERALCO over AIR 21, 109-98

The Meralco Bolts bucked the explosion of debuting Air 21 import Wesley Witherspoon before a using a furious rally for a 109-98 victory over the Express on Sunday at SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

“Test of will for us, we were down by a big margin, we found ways to extricate from a deep hole,” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio. “Fantastic game for us, simply an amazing comeback, something I’ll cherish.”

Meralco import Brian Butch exploded for 20 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 31 rebounds, while Jared Dillinger added 20 points to give the Bolts their third win in five games.

Advertised as a big-time scorer before flying in, Witherspoon turned out as good as promised — at least in his first game. He finished with 44 points, flummoxing Meralco with booming three-point shots and silky-smooth drives to the basket.

The Express led by as many as 20 points, 86-66, at the 1:07 mark of the third period.

But the Bolts responded by scoring the next 11 points of the match to cut their deficit to just nine, 86-77.

Witherspoon responded with two free throws and a long jumper to push the Express lead back up, 91-77.

Meralco kept fighting, however, coming to within three, 96-93, after back-to-back three-pointers from Brian Butch and Jared Dillinger and a John Wilson reverse layup.

Asi Taulava responded with a lay-up, but Butch nailed another three as Meralco came within two, 98-96.

The Bolts had a chance to tie the game at the 3:09 mark, but Dillinger could only make one of two free throws.

The lefty forward atoned for it a couple of plays later, giving the Bolts the advantage with a layup, 99-98.

Another split, this time from Cliff Hodge, pushed the Meralco advantage to two points, 100-98, with only 1:51 remaining.

Dillinger then made two straight baskets to push the Meralco advantage to six points.

Witherspoon missed a three-pointer, and Butch nailed five free throws to ice the game.

MER 109 – Butch 40, Dillinger 20, Wilson 12, David 11, Hodge 9, Caram 6, Mandani 4, Hugnatan 3, Guevarra 2, Artadi 2, Ildefonso 0, Al-Hussaini 0.
AIR 98 – Witherspoon 44, Cardona 22, Taulava 11, Yeo 7, Borboran 4, Villanueva 4, Camson 4, Atkins 2, Poligrates 0, Ramos 0, Burtscher 0.
QS: 25-18, 42-53, 68-86, 109-98

Brian Butch reacts after nailing a huge three against the Express.

Jared Dillinger unloaded one of his better games of the season to
push Meralco to fourth place in the standings.

Cliff Hodge tries to stay with Air 21's new import, Wesley Witherspoon.


Ranidel De Ocampo scored 19 of his 28 points in the first half to spark Talk ‘N Text to a 94-87 victory over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday at SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

The Tropang Texters improved its perfect record to 6-0 to begin the PLDT Home TVolution Commissioner’s Cup, while the Gin Kings fell below .500 at 2-3.

“I think my team played good defense today, we executed what we wanted to do, to take the ball out of the hands of LA (Tenorio) and (Mark) Caguioa,” said Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black. “Hats off to my players for executing the gameplan.”

Behind De Ocampo’s hot hands, Talk ‘N Text took control early on, opening up a 52-40 lead at the half.

The Tropang Texters remained in the driver’s seat through the fourth quarter, holding an 87-74 lead on a basket by import Richard Howell.

De Ocampo hammered Ginebra import Leon Rodgers on a drive, resulting in a flagrant foul on the Tropang Texters big man. That proved to be the spark the Gin Kings needed, as they rattled off seven straight points to cut the deficit to six points, 87-81.

Ginebra remained in striking distance, coming to within four points, 89-85, with 42 seconds left on a layup by LA Tenorio.

But Larry Fonacier snuffed out any hopes of a Ginebra comeback, nailing a three-pointer with 29.4 seconds left for a seven-point advantage.

With six games under their belts, the Tropang Texters will enjoy a lull in the schedule before they get back into action against the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers on March 31.

“We have seven days off coming, so I’m happy to take a break,” said Black.

TNT 94 – De Ocampo 28, Howell 19, Castro 11, Reyes Ry. 11, Fonacier 10, Williams 8, Canaleta 4, Alapag 3, Reyes Ro. 0, Baclao 0, Carey 0.
GIN 87 – Rodgers 32, Caguioa 14, Baracael 13, Tenorio 9, Slaughter 8, Aguilar 5, Ellis 2, Reyes 2, Helterbrand 2.
QS: 28-26, 52-40, 76-65, 94-87

The Ginebra Gin Kings are caught in a tailspin and must regroup.

Marcus Douthit watches intently from the sidelines.

Ranidel De Ocampo showcased his wide range
of offensive moves against Ginebra. 

Once again, Richard Howell was a solid inside presence
for the Tropang Texters.

Recaps by Rey Joble/InterAKTV.

Images by Pranz Kaeno Billones/Sports 5.

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