ANTIPOLO CITY - Meralco turned on full power to score a bounce back 97-87 victory over skidding NorthPort and grab a share of second in the PBA Philippine Cup yesterday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Shut down in a 78-71 loss to TNT last Saturday, the Bolts cranked it up and buried the skidding Batang Pier to a 19-point hole in the first 24 minutes to set the tone for their third win in four games.
NorthPort, which fell behind by as many as 27 points, failed to arrest its slide and has now lost three straight games after a hot 2-0 start.
Coach Norman Black's troops got into good rhythm shooting-wise, knocking down 16 triples, while maintaining their hard-nosed defending.
His son, Aaron, spearheaded the smooth-flowing Meralco production with 20 points on a 9-of-12 clip.
Allein Maliksi and Chris Banchero rifled in identical 16 spiked by four three-point conversions to back up the young Black, who returned to action after missing the last game due to wrist injury. Reynel Hugnatan, with 11, and relief big man Toto Jose, with nine markers and 13 rebounds, also delivered and joined forces with Noy Baclao and Cliff Hodge in anchoring Meralco's interior game in the absence of Almazan. The 6-foot-7 Almazan was placed on health and safety protocols.
"That's exactly what we needed - for some of the others to step up. I thought Toto did a good job for us tonight and also Noy and Reynel. These three plus Cliff held the fort for us as I also realized that NorthPort is not a very big team so we can match up with them size-wise," said Black.
"But we just wanted to bounce back from our loss to TNT. I thought we played pretty good defense against TNT but our offense was really off and out of whack. But tonight, our offense flowed a lot better and our defense really held up," he added.
Maliksi was the fire-starter, firing 11 and three triples in the first period to power Meralco to a 32-22 upperhand.
Jose and Black took the cue and with 17 points combined in the second, they enabled the Bolts to go into the break-up by 19 at 56-37.
The Bolts padded the gap to a high 88-61 and even though the Batang Pier made significant strides in their fourth-quarter rally and threatened to within 12, the Bolts held tough in the end with the young Black hitting clutch buckets.
Jamie Malonzo punched in 21 to lead NorthPort as Robert Bolick was held to 15 by the Meralco defenders. (OL)
Meralco 97 - Black 20, Maliksi 16, Banchero 16, Hugnatan 11, Quinto 9, Jose 9, Newsome 7, Baclao 4, Pasaol 3, Hodge 2, Belo 0, Caram 0.
NorthPort 87 - Malonzo 21, Bolick 15, Santos 11, Ayaay 10, Calma 10, Balanza 9, Sumang 9, Dela Cruz 2, Apacible 0, Javier 0, Ferrer 0.
Quarters: 32-22, 56-37, 83-61, 97-87