PBA Philippine Cup

Motivated to get back at Phoenix, Meralco snaps skid to boost playoff bid

Delfin Dioquino

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Motivated to get back at Phoenix, Meralco snaps skid to boost playoff bid

LAYUP. Aaron Black in action for the Meralco Bolts in the 2024 PBA Philippine Cup.

PBA Images

Meralco returns to the playoff picture in the PBA Philippine Cup after turning back Phoenix in a come-from-behind win

MANILA, Philippines – Don’t count Meralco out just yet.

Using last conference’s quarterfinal ouster at the hands of Phoenix as motivation, the Bolts fueled their playoff bid in the PBA Philippine Cup following an 82-76 victory over the Fuel Masters at the Araneta Coliseum on Friday, April 26.

Aaron Black churned out 18 points with 4 rebounds and 4 assists as Meralco snapped a two-game skid and improved to 4-5 to return to the playoff picture.

“Of course we talked about that as added motivation for the game – understanding that they were the ones who eliminated us last conference. That always hurts,” said Black. 

“You bring that into a game like this because it is a do-or-die for the both of us. We really wanted to take every motivation that we could. But our No. 1 priority was to keep our hope alive for the playoffs.”

A third straight loss would have seen the Bolts fall to 11th place in the 12-team standings.

But Meralco held its nerve and leaned on Black and Chris Newsome in a pivotal third-quarter turnaround that saw the team turn a 34-38 halftime deficit into a 60-53 lead going into the final frame.

Newsome (9) and Black (8) combined for 17 of the Bolts’ 26 points in the third period.

Allein Maliksi, Chris Banchero, and Bong Quinto then delivered the goods in the fourth quarter as Meralco climbed to the No. 8 spot.

“If we lost today, we would have not been able to make the playoffs anymore. Thankfully, we have that chance and we have to make the most out of that chance moving forward,” said Black.

Newsome finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists before he hurt his left knee late in the game, while Banchero chimed in 14 points, including the jumper that gave Meralco a 79-74 cushion inside the final 30 seconds.

Maliksi added 13 points as he bounced back from a scoreless outings in their previous loss to erstwhile winless Converge.

Rookie forward Kenneth Tuffin and Kent Salado put up 14 and 12 points, respectively, to pace the Fuel Masters, who fell to 3-7 but still cling to a slim chance of making the quarterfinals.

No other Phoenix player scored in double figures.

The Fuel Masters badly missed the offensive contributions of star Jason Perkins, who got limited to just 5 points on 2-of-8 shooting – well below his conference average of 18.6 points.

The Scores

Meralco 82 – Black 18, Newsome 15, Banchero 14, Maliksi 13, Hodge 6, Caram 6, Bates 4, Almazan 3, Quinto 3, Pasaol 0, Torres 0, Pascual 0.

Phoenix 76 – Tuffin 14, Salado 12, Jazul 9, Rivero 9, Mocon 7, Garcia 6, Perkins 5, Muyang 4, Verano 4, Alejandro 3, Soyud 3, Daves 0, Camacho 0.

Quarters: 24-21, 34-38, 60-53, 82-76.

– Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.