May 24, 2023

Meralco survives NorthPort fightback

IT SEEMS Meralco is headed in the right direction under new coach Luigi Trillo.

The Bolts unleashed a decisive power surge in the fourth quarter to hold off re-tooling NorthPort, 97-89, Wednesday at the start of their PBA On Tour campaign at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.

Allein Maliksi came off the bench to score a game-high 21 points and joined hands with Bong Quinto in spearheading Meralco's final breakaway that ultimately quashed NorthPort's aspirations for an auspicious start to the pre-season series presented by Arena Plus with Bingo Plus as major sponsor.

Quinto wound up with 14 points, Cliff Hodge had a double-double of 11 points and 10 boards, Anjo Caram and new acquisition Norbert Torres also finished with at least 10 points each and Raymar Jose corralled a game-high 12 boards for the Bolts.

Sure to be pleased enough is Trillo, who was tapped to replace Norman Black only earlier this month and promptly instituted some changes which Maliksi said he and his teammates are still trying to absorb and translate into game.

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"New system, so maraming adjustments pa. Ginagawa namin sa practice ina-apply lang namin sa game na ito," related Maliksi.

"We're just trying to be more aggressive, make the right plays and play as a team and treat this game professionally," added Maliksi. "So we want to win games as much as we can."

Jeff Chan's 20 points led NorthPort, which should have new coach Bonnie Tan satisfied enough with his team's performance despite the departure of Robert Bolick and the absence of Gilas mainstay Arvin Tolentino and Will Navarro, still recuperating from an ACL operation last January.

Despite a woeful opening quarter that led to the Batang Pier trailing by as much as 14-34, they refused to give up and even briefly held the lead in the third period.

Notwithstanding Meralco's onslaught that led to a 13-point deficit, NorthPort battled back to within 88-94 mainly behind Chan and Paul Zamar, still 1:12 left.

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But Arwind Santos got slapped with a technical for game delay which Quinto parlayed into a charity and, following a Chan miss, the former Letran standout converted a fastbreak layup to practically seal the deal, only 50 ticks remaining.

JM Calma added 15 points and 11 rebounds and Zamar chipped in 12 points for NorthPort, which will look to get on track against San Miguel Beer on Saturday. (NC)