By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Meralco Bolts marked their return to Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) action with a victory, 95-83, over the Terrafirma Dyip on Thursday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University (DHVSU) Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Held out as a team for two weeks over the league’s health and safety protocols, it took a while for Meralco to shrug off Terrafirma, but when it got the leverage it needed, the team was not to be denied en route to the win that saw the Bolts improve to 6-2 in the Philippine Cup.
The Bolts did it minus key cogs Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge, who had yet to be cleared for play in accordance with the PBA’s health guidelines, and sophomore Aaron Black, who hurt his hand early in the contest and was taken to the hospital to be checked.
The teams played it back-and-forth for three quarters, fighting to a 73-70 count, with the Bolts ahead, after 36 minutes of play.
In the fourth quarter, Meralco got early traction on the lead by veteran Reynel Hugnatan and guard Anjo Caram.
The Bolts outscored the Dyip, 12-9, to build a six-point cushion, 85-79, by the 6:17 mark.
They extended their lead, 93-79, four minutes later and were never threatened after.
Bong Quinto led five Meralco players in double digits with 17 points, with Mr. Caram adding 13 and Allein Maliksi 12 points. Raymond Almazan finished with 11 while Mr. Hugnatan had 10.
“We we’re missing some key players so I just told them to play as a team, play for one another. Good thing some players stepped up,” said Meralco coach Norman Black after the game.
With the loss, Terrafirma is now on the brink of elimination with a 3-7 record.
Aldrech Ramos top-scored for the Dyip with 15 points, followed by Joseph Gabyani with 14. Juami Tiongson and Reden Celda each had 10 points.
ALASKA STARTS GRIND
Meanwhile, the Alaska Aces begin their grind of three straight matches on Friday with a clash against defending champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings.
Out for two weeks because of the league’s health and safety protocols, the Aces (2-4) look to get wind in their push for the playoffs although under tough conditions, playing three in a row, beginning with the Kings set for 6 p.m.
They then take on league-leading TnT Tropang Giga (9-1) on Saturday and Terrafirma on Sunday.
Against the Kings (4-5), Alaska will be facing a team fresh from a huge come-from-behind win in their previous game and are looking to sustain the momentum.
Despite the adversity they are set to face, the Aces remain hopeful, taking it “a game at a time.”