Bolts claim crucial win in race to land in top half of playoff draw
Meralco kept it together in the most crucial times on Sunday night to slip past San Miguel Beer, 89-86, and notch a victory that means a little extra for the entire Bolts organization.
Allein Maliksi and Aaron Black scored the Bolts’ final 10 points inside the final two minutes as Meralco bounced back from a loss a couple of nights back to gain outright passage into the Philippine Cup playoffs at Smart Araneta Coliseum, and more importantly, stay well inside the top half of the draw that will be critical in the quarterfinals.
Meralco also denied San Miguel a triumphant end to its elimination round, snapping a six-game winning streak by the Beermen just when they are bracing for the first round where they play the lowest-seeded qualifier.
But more importantly, the Bolts notched a victory for its grieving head coach Norman Black, whose mother Bessie passed away last Friday.
Barangay Ginebra, with coach Tim Cone back calling the shots, turned back NorthPort, 100-93, to snap a two-game losing streak.
The win was the seventh in 10 games for the Gin Kings, guaranteeing them a spot in the middle of the pack and a best-of-three quarterfinal series
Maliksi finished with 18 points and eight rebounds while Chris Newsome added 16 points, five rebounds and five assists.
The younger Black, for his part, was just as brilliant in turning in 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He also hit a triple that gave the Bolts an 88-83 edge with 50 ticks remaining.
“That was her (grandma Bessie),” the dynamic third-year guard said. “We’re so fortunate we punched holes towards the end. We really needed that win badly.”
The win improved Meralco’s record to 6-4, which put the club in the middle of the pack. It should also grease the Bolts going into Thursday’s game against Terrafirma, which could afford the club a chance at tightening its grip on playing in a best-of-three quarterfinal series.
“You look at the Top 6, whenever you’re on [No. 3] through 6, it’s not a twice-to-beat but a best-of-three. And that’s all we could ask for,” said Beermen assistant coach Luigi Trillo, who call the shots in the absence of the elder Black.
“We’re all playing for coach. He means a lot to our organization. He’s like a best friend to me. He means a lot. And [Aaron] also. We thank him because he could easily be there [in the United States], but decided to stay here to help us out,” he went on.
“Obviously, coach Norman is not yet with us. We wanted to put him in a good situation for when he comes back in, at least we’re ready, right?”
June Mar Fajardo, the six-time Most Valuable Player, had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Beermen. INQ