By Cip D.C. Cabrera
A piece of the action in Game 2 of the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals between Magnolia and Talk ‘N Text. (Photo courtesy of GMA Network)
QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA — Restoring its defensive power with head coach Norman Black back at the helm, the Meralco Bolts scored a rousing return from a 0-1 deficit to hit back at the San Miguel Beermen, 99-88, in Game 2 of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinals series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With Black’s much-needed mentorship back, the Bolts played with fire, passion and intensity to hammer an electrifying win against the Beermen to avert defeat and turn the series into a best-of-five affair.
Once again Meralco’s veteran forward Clifford Hodge showcased his defensive intensity to top his team and score double digits in an outstanding tally of 17 points and 14 rebounds that gave a fitting welcome to Black’s return since leaving the bench last June 30.
Hodge was supported by shooting guards Aaron Black and Allein Maliksi who banged in 15 points each while Chris Newsome knocked in 14 markers and nine rebounds and defense-minded slotman Raymar Jose initiated a surprise performance to score 13 points and four boards.
Meanwhile, in the main header, the Magnolia Chicken Timplados Hotshots gave their all to stave off a Talk ‘n’ Text (TNT) Tropang Giga onslaught en route to a rousing 92-88 win in Game 2. Magnolia used its defense and staved off TNT’s star forward Michael Williams and his teammates from scoring another victory that would have rendered them down in a 0-2 pit.
The Hotshots unloaded a climactic shooting spree in the final two quarters to surge to as much as a 19-point lead, 77-58, before leaning on their veteran players to weather Tropang Giga’s attempt to fight back in the closing minutes.
The win gave hope to Magnolia as it neutralized its 108-96 defeat in Game 1 with Tropang Giga, turning the event like what Meralco did earlier into a best-of-five. But this happened not after a big scare from TNT which rallied behind Williams and their point guard Jayson Castro to inch back into the game for a comeback.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero admitted after their triumph that Williams’s shoot prowess really posed a problem for them, saying: “Hindi naman namin talaga ma-stop si Mikey, na-limit lang namin. Iyon lang ang goal namin, iyong (malimitahan ang) points niya, iyong contributions niya. Once na nag-init talaga siya, tuluy-tuloy.”.
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
Magnolia 92 — Barroca 22, Sangalang 20, Abueva 18, Lee 10, Reavis 9, Wong 5, Jalalon 4, Dela Rosa 2, Laput 2, Dionisio 0
TNT 88 — M. Williams 28, Castro 17, Erram 13, Pogoy 11, Rosario 10, K. Williams 6, Montalbo 3, Khobuntin 0, Alejandro 0, Marcelo 0, Ganuelas-Rosser 0
Quarters: 18-12, 39-29. 69-58, 92-88