Meralco forced Blackwater to set a league record for futility while closing in on the twice-to-beat advantage following a 104-97 win Saturday, Sept. 18 in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The Bolts led by 29 points at one point in the third quarter but had to endure anxious moments in the fourth after the Bossing moved to within five in the final two minutes of the game before holding on for their seventh win in nine matches.
Blackwater lost for the 19th straight time that broke the previous mark of 18 straight by the Great Taste/Presto Fun Drinks franchise during the 1980 season.
It also marked the first time that a team failed to a single game during a conference since the 2017 when Terrafirma, then known as Kia, went 0-11 in the season-ending Governors’ Cup.
Coach Norman Black was relieved that Meralco didn’t end up being a trivia question after its tale of two halves.
“We seem to be very focused in the first half. Blackwater played much, much better than the second half, but we played well enough to win the game, Black said.
Black is also glad that the Bolts managed to keep an inside track on the quarterfinal bonus with a half-game lead over third-running Magnolia with a 7-3 slate and one clear of San Miguel Beer which totes a 6-3 card.
Meralco needs just one win in its last two matches in the elims to join TNT as the only teams the twice-to-beat. The Bolts still have the NLEX Road Warrios and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on their schedule.
“At this point of the season that’s all it really matters, if you get as many wins as possible,” he said. “We still have two more games coming up against NLEX and Ginebra, so winning this game was very, very important for us. Even though it wasn’t very pretty in the second half, I’ll take it.”
Allein Maliksi celebrated his 34th birthday by dropping 21 points, center Raymond Almazan put up 15 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks while Trevis Jackson and Reynel Hugnatan added 14 points apiece.
Jackson scored all of his points in the first half and Hugnatan had 10 as the Bolts leaned on a 17-0 run that made it 21-9 before going into the break up 61-38. Maliksi hit 13 during the third where the Bolts took a 75-46 lead with under seven minutes left.
But Blackwater scored 22 points while holding Meralco to just two, a run that ended with Richard Escoto converting a basket with 1:44 left in the third to trail 77-68.
Blackwater kept knocking on Meralco in the fourth and got to within five, 100-95, on Simon Enciso’s triple with 1:49 to go in the match.
Anjo Caram, however, killed Blackwater’s hopes an upset when he drained a three for a 103-95 Meralco advantage.
Escoto, KG Canaleta and Mike Tolomia scored 15 points apiece for the Bossing in their final game of the conference.
MERALCO 104 — Maliksi 21, Almazan 15, Jackson 14, Hugnatan 14, Quinto 10, Belo 8, Caram 8, Pasaol 7, Baclao 6, Jamito 1, Pinto 0.
BLACKWATER 97 — Canaleta 15, Tolomia 15, Escoto 15, Enciso 14, Torralba 12, Cruz 4, Daquioag 9, Magat 8, Golla 3, Dennison 2, Desiderio 0.
Quarters: 31-14, 61-38, 85-71, 104-97.