Meralco, NLEX strike

MANILA, Philippines, September 17 ------ Come backing Meralco bucked the absence of some key personnel to drub Terrafirma, 95-83, and strengthen its grip on second spot in the 46th PBA Philippine Cup in Bacolor, Pampanga yesterday. The Bolts did things by committee to get the job done with Chris Newsome, Cliff Hodge and Toto Jose, and some assistant coaches sitting out the game after coming back from a 13-day layoff due to health and safety protocols.

Backup guard Anjo Caram dished out 13 points spiked by 3-of-4 three-point shooting plus five assists and three steals to lead the big contributors to Meralco’s sixth win in eight outings. Caram provided the spark in a late 12-0 spurt that broke the game open for Meralco, 93-79. Bong Quinto took scoring honors with 17 markers and eight rebounds even as Raymond Almazan (11-8), Allein Maliksi (12-6), Reynel Hugnatan (10-5) and Alvin Pasaol (10-8) turned in valuable help for the shorthanded crew that lost one more player during the game in Aaron Black (hand injury).

“We’re missing some players so we talked about playing together and playing for one another,” said Meralco mentor Norman Black, who also worked with a depleted coaching staff in the match at the Don Honorio Ventura State U Gym.“It was a tough game but our defense helped us in the second half and our guys hit big shots. I think everybody contributed at some point of the game and I could really say it was a team victory,” said Black.

Meralco moved a win away from formally qualifying for the quarterfinals and took the inside track in the chase for No. 2 seeding and twice-to-beat advantage. The Bolts are half a game ahead of third-running Magnolia (6-3) and one clear of No. 4 San Miguel (5-3). “This win is a big one for us. We have another big game against Blackwater on Saturday. Hopefully, if we can get that, at least we’ll have a chance to go for twice-to-beat,” said Black.

Aldrech Ramos shot 15 while Joseph Gabayni had 14-10 for the Dyip (3-7), who fell to 11th with their third straight loss.

Later, NLEX arrested a three-game skid via a 90-73 crushing of Blackwater and enhanced its Last-8 drive with an even 5-5 card. JR Quiñahan returned from a hand injury to fire 16 while Philip Paniamogan stepped up with 14 as the Road Warriors got back on track and jumped to sixth position.

NLEX handed Blackwater its 10th consecutive setback for the tournament, stretching the Bossing’s winless stint to a record-tying 18 games dating back to the Clark bubble. The Bossing matched the 1980 Great Taste team for the dubious mark of the longest losing streak in league history. “We wanted to go into this game with a sense of urgency. We needed to make five wins desperately as that would give us a chance to make it to the next round,” said NLEX mentor Yeng Guiao.