With coach out, Meralco pockets crucial win to take into killer 3-game stretch

Meralco's Aaron Black.

Meralco’s Aaron Black. –PBA IMAGES

Preparing for a torturous grind in the next week where basically its playoff hopes hinge on, Meralco on Wednesday got a victory to arrest a skid and also give the Bolts confidence when it truly matters for them as the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations enters its homestretch.

Aaron Black tossed in 20 points and together with Chris Newsome led a fiery fourth quarter charge as the Bolts clipped the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 77-73, at Smart Araneta Coliseum that had Meralco rising to 4-3 and also put the team in the right frame of mind heading into what could be classified as a killer week.

“If you go 3-4, you can be eliminated [from playoff contention],” Black said. “For us, this was a very big game, especially going into the next three games.

“Don’t get me wrong, Rain or Shine is a formidable team. But the next guys we are facing are at the top of the standings—all San Miguel teams. And we’re playing them back-to-back-to-back. So we really had to get this one.”

Kings triumph

Later in the evening, Barangay Ginebra lent credence to Black’s words, flexing its might to crush Terrafirma, 106-82.

The Gin Kings used an 18-1 run to close the third period and then kept their hands welded on the steering wheel the rest of the way to notch their sixth win in seven outings for a share of the lead.

Also on top? San Miguel Beer.

That means Meralco will be facing two squads that have combined for just two losses thus far, although Ginebra has a titanic clash against defending champion TNT coming up.

Japeth Aguilar was solid once again for the Kings, putting up a well-rounded outing of 22 points and six rebounds that went with seven blocks—tying a career-high.

Christian Standhardinger finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for Ginebra.

Homestretch preps

Like the Bolts, the Gin Kings are using these mid-schedule wins to prepare for their homestretch run in the preliminary round.

“Coming into this game, the mindset was to be better from the last game in preparation for our next games. We were able to adjust in the second and sustained our defense, really executing on offense,” said Aguilar.

Meanwhile, the loss was the sixth straight for the Painters, who actually opened the season with a win.

Meralco carved out the win even without head coach Norman Black, Aaron’s dad, who had to fly to the United States to attend to his ailing mother. And with Ronnie Magsanoc joining the national 3X3 team in Singapore, Luigi Trillo was left to call the shots.

And he admits to getting everyone on the same page.

“Just proud of everyone. It’s been eight years for me, so I was also not in my flow,” Trillo, who won a title with Alaska in 2013, said, before deflecting credit to his charges. “But the players chipped in, they were vocal, I let them talk before the game and our coaching staff and we helped each other.”

Three games, five days

Meralco snapped a two-game skid and can still entertain hopes of a top four finish depending on how it fares during its killer stretch, when it faces Ginebra, Magnolia and San Miguel in a span of five days starting July 13.

“Hopefully, we could take this momentum to the next three games,” said the younger Black.

Allein Maliksi chipped in 19 points, Cliff Hodge tossed in 13 and Raymond Almazan finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Bolts.