Aug 10, 2022

Meralco fights back again, reduces series vs SMB to best-of-three

MERALCO went on a wild roller coaster ride, with big salvos in the first and the third quarters proving to be the big key as the Bolts once again sent their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal face-off versus the San Miguel Beermen to a tie after four games.

The Bolts blew a 19-point spread in the first half but went pulling away again in the third quarter en route to a 111-97 win that reduced the series to a best-of-three affair.

Striking from inside and out, the Bolts built a lead as big as 22 and completed a pivotal win to the delight of their supporters at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

A balanced game with five players scoring in double figures did the trick as the Bolts avenged their 96-91 defeat in Game 3 Sunday.

Aaron Black top scored with 21 points with Allein Maliksi (19), Cliff Hodge (18), Raymond Almazan (17) and Bong Quinto (11) putting in significant contributions to make up for Chris Newsome's meager output of eight.

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Coach Norman Black said a big key was their big men making their shots.

"We're trying to take advantage of what we saw in Game 3. We made the adjustments on how to attack their defense because their defense has been pretty good so far in the series. And it worked out for us," said Black.

"Offensively, we were able to go to our bigs, our bigs had a lot of confidence tonight. They took their shots, they made their shots, Raymond especially, and that was the key," Black added.

"We saw in Game 3 that they (the Beermen) were actually leaving our bigs wide open. They have to make sure they have confidence to take the shots when they come."

And the Meralco bigs did that in this game, helping the Bolts well in the hunt for the finale.

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Hodge and Almazan put in buckets and, along with Kyle Pascual, did a good job to neutralize June Mar Fajardo.

"Maganda ang preparasyon sa aming ng mga coaches namin. At naniwala kami na kung tulong-tulong mai-stop namin si June Mar," said Almazan.

Fajardo (21), CJ Perez (24) and Marcio Lassiter (23) actually came through with 20-point games but the whole team sputtered in the face of the Bolts' hot blitzkrieg in the third.

And after taking a 22-point bubble, there' simply no stopping the Bolts from forging the 2-2 series deadlock.

The two teams clash in the crucial Game Five Friday also at the Big Dome.

From an early 19-point deficit, the Beermen came within two at 53-55 largely behind Lassiter's 18-point second-quarter explosion marked by 4-of-4 three-pointers.

The Bolts made it 58-53 at the half on three charities by Newsome off a foul by Moala Tautuaa with two seconds to go.

Meralco also had its own binge from afar, with Newsome, Black and Maliksi combining for six triples to help fuel their early breakaway.

Lassiter and CJ Perez, however, erased those three-pointers and Meralco's early big lead with their 7-o-f 9 combined treys in the first half.

But then came another stirring Meralco assault in the third. (SB)

The Scores:

Meralco 111 - Black 21, Maliksi 19, Hodge 18, Almazan 17, Quinto 11, Newsome 8, Baclao 4, Belo 4, Hugnatan 3, Jose 2, Pascual 2, Banchero 2, Pasaol 0, Caram 0, Johnson 0.

San Miguel 97- Perez 24, Lassiter 23, Fajardo 21, Manuel 9,Brondial 9, Canete 4, Zamar 3, Cruz 2, Tautuaa 1, Pessumal 1, Ross 0, Enciso 0, Herndon 0.

Quarters: 36-23, 58-53, 88-71, 111-97