By JONAS TERRADO
Meralco bucked a long respite and the absence of key players and team personnel to claim a 95-83 victory over Terrafirma yesterday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The Bolts broke away in the final seven minutes with a 14-4 windup sparked by two triples from reserve guard Anjo Caram to win their first game since being out for almost two weeks when they entered the league’s health and safety guidelines.
Getting its sixth win in eight matches to remain in second spot was also produced minus top scorer Chris Newsome, energy guy Cliff Hodge and third-string big man Toto Jose plus team manager Paolo Trillo and some members of the coaching staff as they have yet to be given a clean bill of health.
Meralco also lost the services of starting point guard Aaron Black two minutes into the game after hurting his right hand and left for the hospital with a bandage.
“We always study the other team and prepare for their offense and their defense. But in this game, I thought it was more about us,” said Meralco coach Norman Black. “We’re missing two key players because of the health protocols in the PBA. And what we talked about is we just have to play together and play for one another. That was very important.
“It was a very tough game against Terrafirma. But our defense held up in the second half, and the guys came up with big shots. I think everybody really contributed at some point of the game, and I can really say it was a team victory tonight,” added Black.
Caram filled in the void left by Black and finished the game as one of six players who scored in double figures with 13 points while adding five assists and three steals.
His three started Meralco’s fourth quarter surge after Terrafirma, which kept the game close despite trailing throughout the second half, trimmed the gap to 81-79 on a basket by Matt Ganuelas-Rosser with seven minutes left.
Two free throws from Bong Quinto, who had a team-high 17 points, a layup by Hugnatan, a Caram triple and a basket by Raymond Almazan made it 93-79 with Meralco on its way to victory despite 2:20 to go on the clock.
Allein Maliksi had 12 points and six rebounds, Almazan produced 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks while Hugnatan and rookie Alvin Pasaol added 10 points apiece.
Aldrech Ramos’ 15 points and Joseph Gabayni’s 14 points and 10 rebounds couldn’t help Terrafirma from extending its woes and suffer a third straight loss. At 3-7, the Dyip’s chances of reaching the quarterfinals became gloomier.
MERALCO 95 — Quinto 17, Caram 13, Maliksi 12, Almazan 11, Hugnatan 10, Pasaol 10, Belo 9, Jackson 5, Pinto 4, Jamito 2, Baclao 2, Black 0.
TERRAFIRMA 83 — Ramos 15, Gabayni 14, Tiongson 10, Celda 10, Batiller 9, Calvo 9, Camson 6, McCarthy 4, Ganuelas-Rosser 4, Adams 2.
Quarters: 25-19, 50-49, 73-70, 95-83.