Hodge sparks Meralco past AlaskaBy Musong R. Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Games tomorrow (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
- 5:15 p.m.—Globalport vs Talk ‘N Text
- 7:30 p.m.—Rain or Shine vs Air21
Cliff Hodge shone on both ends last night as Meralco ripped Alaska, 93-86, and scored its first win in the PBA Philippine Cup at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The rookie Hodge scored 12 of his 20 points when the Bolts took command in the third before Meralco held off several mild uprisings by the seemingly lethargic Aces to secure its first victory since Asi Taulava orphaned the Bolts nearly a month ago.
Meralco is making do without a legitimate threat after Taulava left the squad to play in the Asean Basketball League.
It was the second straight loss for the Aces, who looked out of sync all night and would have lost by an even bigger margin had they been up against a stronger foe.
Petron Blaze downed Barako Bull, 98-89, in the second game to tie its victim at 1-1.
Hodge also had 11 rebounds while Mac Cardona tossed in 16 for the Bolts, who led by as many as 15 points in the third period and were ahead by 12 entering the final two minutes.
Cyrus Baguio paced Alaska with 19 points and Sonny Thoss added 17 and 11 rebounds for the Aces, who didn’t seem willing to run even though several opportunities were there in the second half.
“It’s unusual to have a rookie dictate our effort level,” Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio said of the fourth overall choice in the draft. “Obviously, he’s bringing a lot of excitement, dirty work inside. And he also scores.
“When we drafted him, I thought he was just a defensive player, a loose ball diver and rebounder,” Gregorio continued. “But after two games, he’s averaging close to 20.”
Hodge, a 24-year-old Fil-American, scored 19 points in a 112-110 overtime loss to Talk ‘N Text last Friday.
Another rookie, Kelly Nabong, also grabbed 11 rebounds for the Bolts.
Gabby Espinas tossed in 15 points but had a really nasty foul on Hodge late in the fourth quarter. Commissioner Chito Salud will summon Espinas tomorrow and his technical foul could be upgraded with a fine to boot.
MERALCO 93—Hodge 20, Cardona 16, Buenafe 13, Mercado 10, Salvacion 10, Hugnatan 8, Nabong 6, Reyes 4, Borboran 2, Sharma 2, Artadi 2, Belencion 0.
ALASKA 86—Baguio 19, Thoss 17, Espinas 15, Casio 12, Hontiveros 9, Baracael 4, Bugia 4, Dela Cruz 4, Reyes 2, Jazul 0, Eman 0, Cablay 0, Belasco 0.
Quarters: 24-24, 50-44, 76-64, 93-86