Meralco weaves Black magic, adds to NorthPort’s problems
Meralco proved to be a formidable lot even without Raymond Almazan on Thursday night, cruising to a 97-87 victory over NorthPort in the PBA Philippine Cup at Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
The Bolts drew steady performances from Aaron Black, Chris Banchero and Allein Maliksi to get back to their winning ways and gain a share of the second place with idle Barangay Ginebra.
“We just wanted to bounce back from our loss to TNT. We thought we played pretty good defense but our offense was off and out of whack,” said Meralco coach Norman Black, whose charges improved to 3-1 (win-loss).
“Tonight our offense flowed better and our defense held up for us,” he added.
The younger Black finished with 20 points, five rebounds and seven assists. Maliksi and Banchero both finished with 16 points, shooting almost exclusively from long distance.
The Bolts’ bench accounted for 41 points as well, effectively plugging the hole left by Almazan, who was placed under the league’s health protocols.
“It’s exactly what we needed—for our other guys to step up,” Black said. “ Toto [Jose] did a good job tonight. Noy [Baclao] stepped in with good minutes as we started Reynel [Hugnatan] at the center position.”
“I also realized that NorthPort was not a very big team, so we could actually match up with them size-wise,” he added.
The Batang Pier drew 21 points and nine rebounds from Jamie Malonzo. Robert Bolick chipped in 15 while Arwind Santos 11 as the club continued to slide, absorbing a third straight loss in five games.
Black was not too keen on making a big deal out of the victory, saying it simply kept Meralco on the same pace with the tournament leaders.
“Eventually, somewhere down the line we’re gonna play them. We could just try to be [on] pace with them now and stay right there, close to them, so we can have a chance at surpassing them once we play them,” Black said.
But the outing should be an encouraging sign for Meralco—especially going into Saturday’s contest, where a limping sister team, NLEX, awaits.
“They’re coming off a loss so we have to be prepared for them because that’s another game that Raymond will not play. So we have to get more contribution from our backups and bench players to be able to beat NLEX,” he said.
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