Meralco’s desire to finally beat Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in a PBA Governors’ Cup Finals series was on full display after a standout opening act resulted in a 104-91 win Wednesday, April 6 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts as a unit was on cue defensively almost throughout the contest while Allein Maliksi and import Tony Bishop played the lead roles in drawing first blood in the best-of-seven series.
“I thought we really got off to a great start, offensively, and our defense held up very, very well,” Black said during the customary postgame interview inside the press room.
“I thought the locals did a great job of setting the tone, particularly Allein Maliksi who came in and shot very well. And finally, in the second half, it was pretty much Tony Bishop who started scoring the basketball which helped us a great deal,” he added.
Maliksi made good on his goal to play a vital role in the series, starting off by scoring 15 in the first half which allowed Meralco to take a double-digit lead by halftime.
He would finish the game with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting, two shy of equaling his output from the Bolts’ semifinal-clinching Game 5 win over the Magnolia Pambansang Manok Hotshots.
Bishop struggled in the first half on the offensive side but sizzled for 12 in the third period, including a three that began Meralco’s pullaway after Ginebra cut the gap to five, 65-60.
He would end up with 20 points aside from his other contributions of 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals.
But it was more than just Maliksi and Bishop as Cliff Hodge scored 17 after making eight of nine field goal attempts, Aaron Black delivered 12 points, six rebounds and three assists in his first finals game.
Chris Newsome, Raymond Almazan and Bong Quinto also made important contributions, albeit quietly, for Meralco.
Chris Banchero suited up despite being a gametime decision due to an upper body injury, and he too contributed during his 15-minute exposure with six assists.
Overall, Black took pride in the way Meralco played defense as a whole as Ginebra made just 38 percent of its shots.
Ginebra did make 10 triples but out of 34 attempts, as some of the misses came when it was trying to make a run in the second half.
For Black, it would be crucial for them to continue their defensive effort to have a better chance of ending their woes against the Gin Kings.
“Everything for us is gonna be defense, it’s gonna be about trying to find a way to slow them down, offensively,” he said.
“And tonight (Game 1), so far so good.”