2014 PBA Governors’ Cup: Bolts escape Aces, while Mixers subdue Kings!

Left: Mario West leads Meralco to its first win of the conference.
Right: Marqus Blakely dominates the Ginebra frontline.

First Game:
With arguably the league’s top small forward, Jared Dillinger, out with back issues, the Meralco Bolts turned to veteran point guard Mike Cortez to step up and orchestrate. Cortez, himself coming back from an injury, hit 4 triples on his way to 19 points. The former DLSU playmaker also grabbed 3 rebounds, handed out 5 assists, had 1 steal, and blocked 1 shot in 33 minutes of play. Needless to say, he helped lead Meralco to its first win of the conference, 88-87. He had a lot of help, though, as the forward tandem of Mario West and Cliff Hodge continued to click, pairing up for 41 points, 21 boards, 4 threes, and 4 assists. Hodge, in particular, has been having a great conference, with averages of 21 points, 10 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, and 3 threes through 5 games. He is making 50% of his field goals and 47% of his three-point shots.

With a chance to win the game in the dying seconds, DonDon Hontiveros flicked a pass to import Bill Walker a little too late. Walker started the play up top, drove to his left, and then kicked out to Hontiveros, who could have taken an open three from the corner. Instead, the Cebuano Hotshot pump-faked, drove along the baseline, and kicked out again, this time to Walker, who was open from the left wing. This would have been a brilliant drive-and-kick sequence, but the problem was Hontiveros’s pass was maybe a second too late. By the time Walker had a handle on the pass, the buzzer had sounded and time had expired. Timing is everything in game-clinching situations like this, and, well, the Aces couldn’t get it right.

Rabeh-daba-doo, where are you?!: There is still no sign of missing Meralco big man Rabeh Al-Hussaini, who was last seen leaving for Kuwait to attend to personal matters. Rumor has it he has been offered a slot in the Kuwaiti national basketball team, which is preparing for the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and, maybe, the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, which still has no representative from the Gulf region. If proven true, then this would make sense of Rabeh’s absence, but it wouldn’t excuse it. It’s quite apparent some hefty sanctions await the former Ateneo center if and when he returns to Manila.

Second Game:
Like they’ve done pretty much the entire season, the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers turned up the heat when it mattered the most in their dismantling of rival Ginebra, 102-90. Down 78-79  in the fourth quarter after a Mark Caguioa midrange jumper, the Mixers buckled down to work and uncorked a victory-clinching 16-0 blast that all but obliterated any hopes of the Gin Kings remaining unbeaten this conference. Not surprisingly, Marqus Blakely and PJ Simon presided over the onslaught again. Blakely scored 34 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, and stole the ball 6 times in another dominant showing, while Simon, who just turned 34, unloaded 19 points on 9/13 FG shooting. 

All five Ginebra starters scored in double-figures in this game, but this was offset by the fact that coach Jeffrey Cariaso’s reserves fell short. As a collective, the Ginebra bench was outscored by their SMC counterparts, 25-20. The most critical factor, however, was the awful shooting of import Zack Mason, who made just 5 of his 13 field goal attempts. He finished with 18 points in the game to go along with a team-high 4 turnovers and was a non-factor in that crucial fourth quarter stretch when the Mixers made their run.

Still a student: One of the biggest storylines in this game was the student-mentor angle between Ginebra’s Jeff Cariaso and SMC’s Tim Cone. Cariaso, who was Cone's assistant in SMC, came in winning his first three games as a neophyte PBA head coach, while Tim Cone’s wards were also red-hot, beating Meralco and GlobalPort by an average of 14 points in their previous two games. Some people thought this would be Cariaso’s real coming out party as it seemed he was able to right the Ginebra ship after the Kings turned in a forgettable performance in the previous conference. The thing is, Tim Cone was one better here. His team’s composure and collective experience carried them through to their fourth victory in five outings.

Game recaps by Rey Joble/InterAKTV:

MERALCO over ALASKA, 88-87

The Meralco Bolts finally booked their first win in the PLDT Telpad Governors’ Cup, but not before surviving a late scare from the Alaska Aces, 88-87, on Sunday at SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

“It’s been a trying conference for us,” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio, whose team improved to 1-4. “This is really a big win for us, especially against a quality team.”

Meralco was still ahead by five, 86-81, with 1:39 remaining after a hard drive from Cliff Hodge, who continued his scorching run in the tournament with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

JVee Casio struck back with a three-pointer to push Alaska within a basket, 86-84, with 41.4 seconds left.

The Aces forced a stop on Meralco import Mario West, but Hodge kept the ball alive, forcing Alaska to foul Mike Cortez. The returning point guard nailed both free throws to push Meralco’s lead back to four, 88-84.

Alaska wasn’t about to quit, with import Henry Walker nailing his own three-pointer to put his team within one point, 88-87, with 8.4 seconds left.

Meralco then threw the ball away on the inbound, giving Alaska on final chance. Walker set up Dondon Hontiveros in the corner, but the Cebuano hotshot passed up a shot and Alaska ran out of time.

West finished with 21 points for Meralco, while Cortez sizzled for 19 points on four three-pointers in his return after taking four months off because of knee injury.

“It’s just so frustrating, I’m just dying and itching to get back,” said Cortez. “I didn’t think about anything else but to play basketball tonight.”

His comeback came at the perfect time for the Bolts, who missed Jared Dillinger because of recurring back issues.

“When you have your back against the wall it’s the best time to play basketball,” added Cortez.

Walker scored 25 points to lead Alaska, whose record fell to 2-3.

MER 88 – West 21, Hodge 20, Cortez 19, Hugnatan 16, Guevarra 9, David 3, Bringas 0, Caram 0, Sena 0.
ALA 87 – Walker 25, Abueva 17, Casio 15, Espinas 13, Baguio 9, Jazul 3, Hontiveros 3, Manuel 2, Belasco 0, Dela Cruz 0, Thoss 0.
QS: 21-20, 44-38, 66-64, 88-87

Cliff Hodge has been one of the most productive players this conference for the Bolts.

Mario West goes up strong against the Aces.

Ryan Gregorio of Meralco is wrestling with the prospect of losing
promising big man Rabeh Al-Hussaini.


The San Mig Super Coffee Mixers sent Barangay Ginebra San Miguel crashing back down to earth with a masterful 102-90 victory in their Manila Clasico showdown on Sunday at SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

The Mixers improved its record to 4-1 to grab first place in the PLDT Home Telpad Governors’ Cup, a half-game ahead of the Gin Kings who fell to 3-1 after their first loss of the tournament.

“We were experienced in what we do, so we tried to exploit that,” said San Mig Coffee coach Tim Cone.

Reigning Best Import Marqus Blakely cut loose for 34 points, 17 rebounds, and six steals, leading the Mixers’ onslaught in the final quarter. Peter June Simon, who was celebrating his 34th birthday, continued his hot run through the tournament with 19 points.

There was much anticipation prior to the game with Ginebra facing San Mig Coffee for the first time under coach Jeffrey Cariao, a former assistant coach with the Mixers until the start of this conference.

The game lived up to the billing in the first three quarters, with neither team allowing the other to get too far away.

It was a tight game up until the early part of the fourth period, with Mark Caguioa giving Ginebra its last taste of the lead with a tough jumper over James Yap, 79-78.

But Yap quickly went back at Caguioa drawing a foul for two free throws to give San Mig Coffee back the advantage, 80-79.

That started a 16-0 run for the Mixers, who opened up a commanding 94-79 lead.

With the Mixers turning up the heat, the Gin Kings wilted under the pressure, even as Blakely dominated his Ginebra frontline counterparts.

“We tried to hang on, then in the fourth, we took up the pressure. We kinda let the dogs out,” said Cone.

The coach also paid tribute to versatile forward Joe Devance, who facilitated the Mixers’ offense while also helping defend the Gin Kings’ tall frontcourt towers of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar.

“Special mention to Joe, he was incredible tonight. Never saw a big guy pass that well. He may not have the numbers, but he is the guy with the big story this game,” said Cone.

Import Zaccheus Mason had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Ginebra, but was a non-factor down the stretch when the Mixers made their run. Mark Caguioa added 18 points for the Gin Kings.

SMC 102 – Blakely 34, Simon 19, Barroca 11, Maliksi 9, Devance 8, Pingris 8, Yap 8, Sangalang 4, Reavis 1, Mallari 0.
GIN 90 – Mason 18, Caguioa 18, Aguilar 12, Slaughter 11, Tenorio 11, Ellis 6, Helterbrand 5, Monfort 5, Reyes 2, Mamaril 2, Baracael 0, Ababou 0.
QS: 26-25, 47-50, 70-70, 102-90

Mark Barroca came up big off the bench for SMC.

Mark Caguioa challenges the defense of fellow superstar SG James Yap.

Marqus Blakely launches a baby hook over Japeth Aguilar.

All images are by Pranz Kaeno Billones & Paolo Papa/Sports 5.

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