PBA Philippine Cup

Meralco leans on balanced attack anew to oust San Miguel

JR Isaga
Meralco leans on balanced attack anew to oust San Miguel

UPSET. Bong Quinto and the Meralco Bolts dethrone a San Miguel side bannered by veterans like Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot.

Photo from PBA Images

‘We knew that we were at a disadvantage, but we were able to take it one quarter at a time, and we just took it like that,’ says Cliff Hodge as Meralco overcomes San Miguel’s twice-to-beat edge

For the first time in 5 years, there will be a new champion in the PBA Philippine Cup as the Meralco Bolts downed the San Miguel Beermen dynasty with a 90-68 Game 2 blowout win in the quarterfinals.

As the now-former champions struggled to shuffle players due to multiple, well-documented injuries to their top stars, the Bolts meanwhile swarmed the Beermen on offense with their patented balanced attack.

For this game, it was Cliff Hodge who rose to the occasion, and nabbed Best Player of the Game honors after dropping 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists on an efficient 7-of-9 clip from the field.

“We knew that we were at a disadvantage, but we were able to take it one quarter at a time, and we just took it like that. We made small goals, we knew we wanted this win, and try in every quarter, because that’s all you can do,” he said as he was surrounded by his teammates in the walk-off interview.

The difference in the balance of both teams’ rotations was as clear as day, as San Miguel was forced to play 4 of their banged-up starting 5 more than 36 minutes in the losing effort, while Meralco only had one man, 42-year-old Reynel Hugnatan, breach that mark.

“We know we’re a deep team. Anyone of our teammates can come in and play for us,” Hodge continued. “What’s important for us right now is just play great defense.”

“We just play as a team, we play together. As you can tell, no one’s really scoring 20 points a game. Everyone can score on any given night, and it’s just great teamwork,” he added.

That sentiment was echoed by head coach Norman Black, who was relieved that his team finally got past the quarterfinals of the Philippine Cup for the first time in franchise history.

“[Balance has] been one of the keys to our success this conference,” he said. “Our leading scorer is Chris Newsome, and he’s probably averaging about 14 points a game.”

“But we have a lot of balanced scoring as far as guys coming off the bench and contributing, as well as some of the starters, is concerned. So we just have to continue to do that,” he continued.

Sure enough, Newsome is the team’s top scorer with a modest 14.4 points per game average, followed by Hugnatan at 12 points a night.

More impressively, 6 more Bolts are averaging at least 7 points every contest, namely Hodge, Allein Maliksi, Baser Amer, Raymond Almazan, Bong Quinto, and Black’s son Aaron.

“We play as a team on defense, so we also play as a team on offense, and we’re one of the better teams in the league at distributing the basketball and coming up with assists during the course of the game,” Black said.

“We’ll just continue to play with the way we’ve been playing, which is the move to basketball, get everybody involved as much as possible, and get contributions from everyone,” he continued.

Shoulder to shoulder, the teamwork-savvy Bolts will continue to try to extend their historical All-Filipino run as they next face the bane of their playoff hopes, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, in the best-of-five semifinals. –Rappler.com

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