By JONAS TERRADO
Cliff Hodge shrugged off online talk accusing him of being a dirty player by making an important contribution in Meralco’s Game 3 victory over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals.
Hodge failed to score in the Bolts’ 83-74 win before 16,104 fans Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena but his defensive plays and all-out hustle during the crucial moments allowed them to wrest back control of the series with a 2-1 lead.
The gung-ho forward finished with six rebounds, two steals and one block in almost 38 minutes, drawing praise for the way he impacted the game’s outcome.
“He did a great job defensively tonight, and if the game had gone another five minutes, I don’t know whether he would have finished the game,” Black said.
“But he just gave everything he had on the basketball court today to try to slow down the Ginebra offense, and that really made a big difference for us,” added Black.
The 10-year veteran’s performance came after a couple of days in which Ginebra fans were up in arms about his relentless style of defending that they feel is borderline dirty.
One particular play in Game 2 saw Justin Brownlee hurting his ankle after stepping on Hodge’s foot during the fourth quarter of that contest which ended with Ginebra winning 99-93.
Brownlee was able to shake it off, but the Gin Kings faithful were surely not too pleased with Hodge.
“If I want to beat Ginebra, I want to beat Ginebra full force,” Hodge explained when asked about the sentiments on social media.
I’m not gonna try and injure anyone. If you know me personally, you know that I’m not gonna injure anyone. I’ll never do that, personally. I even tried to apologize to Brownlee,” he added.
He perhaps responded to those accusations with his gung-ho style that led to a pair of defensive efforts that cemented the Bolts’ victory despite being down by 13 in the second quarter.
A two-handed block on a driving Christian Standhardinger was followed by Hodge drawing a charging foul on the same player with the score at 79-74 with under four minutes to go kept Meralco in a comfortable position to eventually claim victory.
“I think he (Standhardinger) did a little up fake and I just tried to stay vertical and stay in the air, and I just got like a block,” Hodge said of his block.
“But that wasn’t even the big play for me. We come back, we turn the ball over and boom, I get a charge,” he added. “That’s what I’m most proud of, not the block.”
Hodge looked spent at the end of a hard-fought Meralco victory, even putting an ice pack on his head after a hard day’s work.
The result is something he and the Bolts hope would help translate into a championship.