Meralco vented its ire on the skidding NorthPort, 97-87, to get back on the winning track in the PBA Philippine Cup on Thursday, June 23, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
The Bolts used a balanced attack and pulled away in the middle quarters to create a sizeable margin before dousing a last ditch rally from the Batang Pier to score their third win in four games and cling with the top teams in the upper half of the standings.
Aaron Black, despite nursing a wrist injury on his shooting hand, continued his fine play, putting up 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds in his return to the lineup while Allein Maliksi contributed 16 points built on four triples.
Reynel Hugnatan and Raymar Jose also provided solid contributions in the absence of Raymond Almazan who was under health and safety protocol. Hugnatan stepped up with 11 points while Jose chalked up 13 rebounds and nine markers.
“We just wanted to bounce back from our loss to Talk N’ Text. We thought we played pretty good defense against TNT but our offense was really off. Tonight our offense flowed a lot better and our defense really held up for us,” said Meralco head coach Norman Black who also heaved praises to his back-up big men who held the fort for the Bolts on the defensive end.
“It’s exactly what we needed, of course some of the other guys need to step up. Toto (Jose) did a good job for us tonight and of course Noy Baclao stepped in and played good minutes. We started Reynel Hugnatan tonight at the center position and basically those three plus Cliff Hodge held the fort for us in the middle of the paint,” he added.
Jamie Malonzo led the Batang Pier with 21 points while Robert Bolick, although struggling all game long, still finished with 15 markers in a losing cause as they absorbed their third straight loss after opening the season with two consecutive wins.
A blazing 15-2 run to end the first half set the tone for the rout for Meralco as it built a 56-37 advantage at the break. The Bolts continued to pounce on the hapless Batang Pier, taking a pair of 26 point lead in the third frame — first a 66-40 cushion after a Hugnatan trey and the last time at 74-48 after a Baclao basket.
Meralco even reset the biggest lead at 88-61 after another Baclao layup before the Batang Pier tried to climb their way back with a 15-2 rally capped by a long bomb from Bolick.
Back-to-back hits from Bolick and Malonzo even trimmed the lead down to just 12, 92-80, but a quick answer from the Bolts with Black unleashing a personal 5-0 run easily restored order for the Bolts.
Meralco 97 – Black 20, Maliksi 16, Banchero 16, Hugnatan 11, Jose 9, Quinto 9, Newsome 7, Baclao 4, Pasaol 3, Hodge 2, Belo 0, Caram 0, Pascual 0
NorthPort 87 – Malonzo 21, Bolick 15, Santos 11, Ayaay 10, Calma 10, Balanza 9, Sumang 9, Dela Cruz 2, Taha 0, Vigil 0, Apacible 0, Cruz 0, Javier 0, Ferrer 0
Quarters: 32-22, 56-37, 83-61, 97-87