Bolts restore power

Norman Black made a rousing return as he steered Meralco to a 99-88 win over San Miguel Beer in Game 2 of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinals series yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

With their seasoned head coach back in the bench, the Bolts played with fire, passion and intensity to hammer the win and avoid a dangerous 0-2 hole while turning the series into a best-of-five affair.

Veteran banger Cliff Hodge showcased his defensive intensity once more and topped five Meralco cagers in double digits, tallying 17 markers and 14 rebounds that gave Black a warm welcome since leaving the team on 30 June.

Aaron Black and Allein Maliksi turned in 15 points each, Chris Newsome had 14 markers and nine rebounds, while defense-minded slotman Raymar Jose was a surprise performer with 13 points and four boards.

“Well that’s something that we always preach. We want everybody to be involved as much as possible,” said Black, who left the coaching chores to assistant coach Luigi Trillo when he missed nine games in the crucial stretch of this all-Filipino tourney.

“It will be more difficult for the teams to stop us if a lot of guys out there are scoring. We just have to continue doing that.”

“If we can be unpredictable on how we score, then it will be harder to stop us.”

Unlike their 97-121 Game 1 loss last Wednesday, the Bolts displayed a much different approach early on to claim a 34-20 edge before San Miguel gunner Marcio Lassiter sizzled and kept it to a tight 48-51 game at the half.

The Beermen even extended their barrage after Vic Manuel and Jericho Cruz blasted 10 straight markers to wrest control, 72-70, late in the third.

But Meralco’s wider rotation of Raymond Alamazan, Kyle Pascual, Hodge and Jose inside the paint stifled June Mar Fajardo’s uprising in the final canto, punctuated by Black’s daredevil three-point play that gave them a 97-85 spread with only 2:10 remaining.

Fajardo’s solid performance of 22 points and 17 rebounds went for naught, while Lassiter had 16 points on a sour 6-of-17 shooting for the Beermen, who are tipped to make some crucial adjustments when they clash anew in Game 3 this Sunday at the same Cubao venue.

The Scores:

MERALCO (99) — Hodge 17, Black 15, Maliksi 15, Newsome 14, Jose 13, Banchero 9, Quinto 9, Almazan 7, Pasaol 0, Baclao 0, Pascual 0, Belo 0, Caram 0.

SAN MIGUEL (88) — Fajardo 22, Lassiter 16, Perez 14, Cruz 11, Manuel 7, Herndon 6, Tautuaa 5, Brondial 4, Ross 3, Enciso 0.

QUARTERS: 34-20, 51-48, 76-72, 99-88.

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