THE Meralco Bolts gave returning coach Norman Black a warm welcome Friday as they struck back at the San Miguel Beermen, 99-88, in Game Two of their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal showdown at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Blown away in the series opener, 121-97, the Bolts fought back by bringing back their clampdown defense and chopping away 33 points from the Beermen's big Game One output.
On Sunday, they break their one-game all standoff at 6:30 p.m. also at the Big Dome.
Black was grateful to his coaching staff and to their troops for a job well done while he's away in the United States attending a death in his family.
The Meralco bench chieftain was also thankful for their effort in his return as they enjoyed a sort of power restoration after a flat outing the last time out.
Cliff Hodge put in 17 points and 14 rebounds, with Aaron Black (15), Allein Maliksi (15), Chris Newsome (14) and Toto Jose (13) contributing double-digit outputs as the Bolts came out strong and recovered after losing a 17-point first-half lead.
Raymond Almazan also had a solid game with 11 rebounds to go with seven markers as he put some fight against June Mar Fajardo's 22-point, 17-rebound game.
The Bolts worked as a cohesive unit as they also negated the double-digit contributions of Marcio Lassiter (16), CJ Perez (14) and Jericho Cruz (11).
The Bolts came out smoking in this cold, rainy evening, jumping the gun on the Beermen and keeping their poise and composure even as SMB got into the fight in the third period.
Buzzer-beaters by Bong Quinto and Chris Newsome to end the first and the second quarters had the Bolts taking the half at 51-48.
After Fajardo powered the Beermen ahead in the second half, Hodge, Black, Newsome and Jose complemented one another as they regained control in the fourth and held on for the series equalizer.
The Bolts came through with a clutch performance fuelling their all-Filipino finals aspiration after getting past the Barangay Ginebra Kings in the quarterfinals. (SB)
Meralco 99 - Hodge 17, Black 15, Maliksi 15, Newsome 14, Jose 13, Banchero 9, Quinto 9, Almazan 7, Pasaol 0, Baclao 0, Pascual 0, Belo 0, Caram 0.
Sand Miguel 88 - Fajardo 22, Lassiter 16, Perez 14, Cruz 11, Manuel 7, Herndon 6, Tautuaa 5, Brondial 4, Ross 3, Enciso 0.
Quarters: 34-20, 51-48, 76-72, 99-88