Meralco shoots for breakthrough in EASL, battles Ryukyu | Inquirer Sports
EASL CAGING

Meralco shoots for breakthrough in EASL, battles Ryukyu

/ 04:15 AM December 13, 2023

Zach Lofton Meralco PBA

Meralco import Zach Lofton.–PBA IMAGES

MACAU—Buoyed by a high-scoring import and a complete roster, Meralco is teeming with confidence going into its rematch with the Ryukyu Golden Kings in the EASL (East Asia Super League) home-and-away season on Wednesday night.

With Allein Maliksi and Chris Banchero back in harness and Zach Lofton now playing comfortably within coach Luigi Trillo’s system, the Bolts are looking forward to give the defending B. League champions a good run for their money in the 7 p.m. encounter at Studio City here.

Meralco failed to sustain a good start and lost, 89-61, in its first meeting with Ryukyu in Okinawa, Japan, three weeks ago where the team paraded just a single import in Prince Ibeh.

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But the team is currently on a high as it is on a three-game winning run in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, highlighted by a 125-99 rout of Northport on the eve of the team’s departure for Macau in which Lofton exploded for 54 points.

“He got 54 [tonight] and I think it’s a good thing for him because we have a game on Wednesday. So we’re flying to Macau and we’ll face Ryukyu,” said Trillo. “First game with Prince (Ibeh), we played with one import. Now at least we have two. And we’re happy with this.”

Ryukyu currently occupies second place in Group B with a 2-1 record behind the undefeated New Taipei Kings (2-0).

Meralco is at the cellar with a 0-2 slate, with Seoul SK Knights barely ahead at third place at 1-2.

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But the Bolts like their chances against the Kings this time, especially playing with the benefit of a complete roster.

“We need him, he’s one of our go-to guys,” said Trillo of Maliksi, who just recovered from a three-week nasal fracture. “Having him, having CB (Chris Banchero) and having more of a complete team is good for us.

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“We still need something to improve, but overall we’re within striking distance from the Top 2.”

Lofton and Banchero suited up in Meralco’s last game against Jeremy Lin and the New Taipei Kings, but lost a close one, 97-92.

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