AND now, it’s a best-of-three.
Meralco came back with a vengeance, pulling off a morale-boosting 95-77 win over Barangay Ginebra in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup at the Angeles University Foundation (AUF) Sports Center in Pampanga.
The Bolts put the clamps on Ginebra superstars Stanley Pringle and Scottie Thompson and outscored the Gin Kings, 30-16, in the pivotal fourth quarter to win pulling away.
More importantly, the win enabled the Bolts to level the best-of-five series at one game apiece.
Chris Newsome, Allein Maliksi, Bong Quinto, Cliff Hodge, Raymond Almazan and Baser Amer provided the much-needed firepower for the Bolts, who bounced back from a 79-96 setback to the Gin Kings in the series opener last Wednesday.
“We talked about the reality that we could not go down 0-2 in the series against Ginebra. We would not have a chance to come back from that deficit against Gin Kings,” said Meralco coach Norman Black.
“This game was really, really important for us. Offensively and defensively, we made a few adjustments and the guys executed very well. We had a lot more balance in this game, with a lot of guys scoring. That gave us a big lift,” added Black.
Black said Maliksi and Almazan did very well.
“We need Allein for us to score to be successful. We need Raymond to have a presence in the middle for us to be successful. They did their jobs tonight.”
Newsome led the way with16 points, six assists and four rebounds in 37 minutes of action.
Maliksi added 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the rainbow territory, Quinto contributed 14 points and six rebounds, Hodge had a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, Almazan had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Amer had 10 points.
Japeth Aguilar led Ginebra with 17 points and eight rebounds, while LA Tenorio added 16 points, four rebounds two assists and two steals.
But Pringle was held to only nine points on a dismal 4-of-16 shooting, including 1-of-7 from the three-point area, in 35 minutes.
Thompson managed only 10 point on 3-of-10 clip.
Tenorio went 4-of-6 from the arc, helping the Gin Kings take a 50-42, at the half.
Ginebra led, 60-53, with 3:35 left in the third quarter but Maliksi hit back-to-back three-pointers and Newsome completed a driving layup in a telling 8-0 run that put Meralco ahead, 61-60.
In all, the Bolts outscored the Gin Kings, 23-11, in the third period with Newsome scoring nine points.
Maliksi opened the payoff period with five points, including another three-pointer, to give Meralco a 70-63 upperhand.
And after Aguilar made it 67-70, the Bolts responded with 15 unanswered points highlighted by Amer’s two triples to open up a huge 18-point lead for the Bolts, 85-67, with 5:14 left.
Meralco never looked back from there.
Meralco (95) – Newsome 16, Maliksi 14, Quinto 14, Hodge 12, Almazan 11, Amer 10, Hugnatan 9, Pinto 3, Caram 2, Jamito 2, Black 2, Faundo 0, Jose 0, Salva 0.
Ginebra (77) – Aguilar 17, Tenorio 16, Thompson 10, Pringle 9, Tolentino 9, Caperal 6, Salado 4, Mariano 4, Caguioa 2, Dillinger 0, Dela Cruz 0, Devance 0, Balanza 0.
Quarterscores: 23-27, 42-50, 65-61, 95-77.