Black helps bolts back on track

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Live wire Meralco torched the hoops and fried skidding NorthPort, 97-87, for a quick bounce back and a share of second place in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo last night.

Shut down in a 78-71 loss to TNT last Saturday, the Bolts powered up and unleashed a hot shooting spiked by 16 three-pointers complementing their trademark defense to set the tone for their third victory in four outings.

Returning with a bang after getting sidelined by a wrist injury, Aaron Black netted 20 points spiked by a 9-of-12 field-goal clip to lead a well-distributed attack for the victors.

Allein Maliksi and Chris Banchero each rifled in four triples in identical 16-point outputs while ageless Reynel Hugnatan (11) and backup big man Toto Jose (nine markers and 13 rebounds) manned the fort ably with Raymond Almazan sitting it out due to health and safety protocols.

“We just wanted to bounce back from our loss to TNT. I thought we played pretty good defense against TNT but our offense was really off and out of whack,” said Meralco coach Norman Black. “Tonight, our offense flowed a lot better and our defense really held up.”

Maliksi got things started with a three-triple, 11-point explosion in the first 12 minutes that enabled Meralco to surge ahead by 10, 32-22.

Jose and Black picked it up in the second as they combined for 17 to help the Bolts to a 24-15 quarter and more separation 56-37.

The Bolts stretched their lead to a high 88-61 then squashed the Batang Pier’s spirited fightback in the fourth to ice it.

Jamie Malonzo punched in 21 but Robert Bolick was held to 15 as NorthPort slid to its third consecutive setback after a 2-0 start.

In the nightcap, TNT leaned on the clutch plays of Jayson Castro and Poy Erram to rally to an 89-85 overtime victory over Rain or Shine.

Castro sparked a 10-0 salvo that led to the equalizer in regulation then Erram banged in six in the extra time as TNT, with Mikey Williams finally on board, escaped with its fourth win in six games. The slumping Elasto Painters dropped to 1-4.

Meanwhile, pacesetting San Miguel Beer seeks to stay perfect in four games in tonight’s gigantic duel with Barangay Ginebra (3-1) over at the MOA Arena.

The Beermen, though, won’t have ace playmaker Chris Ross in the fold for the 6 p.m. match as a result of a right knee injury he sustained in their 87-81 win over Magnolia.

The Gin Kings are similarly dealing with health issues as Stanley Pringle already missed their 83-75 escape act over NLEX last Wednesday and is doubtful anew.

In the 3 p.m. opener, Phoenix (2-2) shoots for its third straight against a Hotshots crew (2-3) that is going for back-to-back without Calvin Abueva, who is serving his one-game suspension.


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