MERALCO rode on the superb game of rookie Aaron Black to bring down defending champion San Miguel Beer, 78-71, and forge a sudden death in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup at the Angeles University Foundation (AUF) Sports Center in Pampanga.
Black, who was named as “Best Player of the Game”, finished with 14 points — nine of them from the rainbow territory — in 23 minutes to lead the Bolts to a low-scoring Friday the 13th victory over the Beermen.
Veteran Reynel Hugnatan led the way with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Bong Quinto had nine points and 13 rebounds for the Bolts, who led by as many as 16 points before holding off a late comeback by the Beermen.
“The guys played with a lot of heart. They played hard, they made some crucial shots at the end. That’s really all it takes to advance. You really have to come up big when it’s playoff time,” said Meralco coach Norman Black after the game.
“We actually didn’t shoot well. We shot poorly. But our defense held up,” added Black, whose team survived the loss of Raymond Almazan early in the game.
The 6-7 center was helped to their bench with 2:10 left in the opening quarter after a collision with Von Pessumal. He did not return.
Black was also visibly happy with his son Aaron’s big game.
“Yesterday (Friday) was my birthday but I take this gift even if it came a day late,” said the older Black.
“Aaron has a lot of improvement ahead of him. He really has to work on his game, but he does have confidence.”
Mo Tautuaa and Marcio Lassiter led San Miguel with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
Lassiter, however, made 1-for-9 triplesm Chris Ross added 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting for the Beermen, who missed the services of Alex Cabagnot ( hamstring).
Ross also had seven assists and six rebounds. Up by only four points, 71-67, Meralco hit five straight points — a short jumper by Hugnatan and a triple by Black — to make it 76-67.
The rubber match is scheduled on Sunday, Nov. 15.
Meralco (78) –Hugnatan 16, Black 14, Amer 12, Newsome 11, Quinto 9, Hodge 6, Faundo 4, Maliksi 4, Jamito 2, Almazan 0, Jackson 0. San Miguel (71)– Tautuaa 14, Lassiter 12, Ross 10, Escoto 10, Zamar 8, Santos 8, Alolino 6, Gamalinda 2, Mamaril 1, Pessumal 0, Comboy 0. Quarterscores: 21-11, 40-31, 59-51, 78-71.