Hodge stars anew, leads Meralco over Alaska 93-86By Mark Giongco
MANILA, Philippines – Meralco head coach Ryan Gregorio thought rookie Cliff Hodge was just a “defender, rebounder and a loose-ball diver.”
Turns out, Hodge brings more to the table.
The fourth overall pick notched a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead Meralco to a 93-86 win over Alaska Wednesday in the 38th PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“It’s unusual to have a rookie dictate our effort level. We’re just fortunate to have drafted Cliff Hodge,” said Gregorio. “He’s bringing excitement, the dirty work and the offense. I thought he’s just a defender, rebounder and loose ball diver.”
It’s also rare to have a rookie impact the game on both ends the way the lanky six-foot-five forward did.
The Aces showed fight in them after the Bolts looked primed to blowing the game wide open when they led, 63-48, at the 7:04 mark of the third quarter.
Alaska put on a mini-run to pull to within striking distance but Meralco, leaning on its rookie, fought back. Hodge had 12 in the third quarter alone.
“The key was our defense. I thought if we can limit Alaska to 20 points we had a good chance. Pretty much the effort of Cliff Hodge, he’s pretty much unstoppable in that third,” praised Gregorio.
“I can still do better, I’m still off on my shooting,” said Hodge, who had seven offensive rebounds and two blocks with 0 turnovers in a team-high 34 minutes.
The Bolts picked up their first win after absorbing a close defeat against Talk ‘N Text in their opening game while the Aces dropped their second straight.
Mac Cardona got back into his groove after a poor first game with 16 points while Sol Mercado went an assist shy of a double-double with 10 points and nine dimes.
Cyrus Baguio had 19 points while Sonny Thoss contributed 17 points and 11 rebounds for Alaska, which looked confused at times especially at the offensive end.