Eros Stock – Meralco Bolts keep playoff hopes alive with win over Blackwater Elite
An error-prone Meralco team managed to keep it together in the endgame to preserve an 89-85 wire-to-wire win over Blackwater in the 2020 P(BA) Philippine Cup Wednesday at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena and Cultural Center.
The Bolts led the entire game but still had to hold off a slow but strong fourth quarter surge by the Elite to climb to sixth in the standings at 4-3.
“Our goal today was basically to put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish. We looked it up and I don’t think we’ve made the playoffs in the last four or five years in the All-Filipino conference, so we just set our goal to just win the game tonight,” head coach Norman Black said after the game.
“The game was not a pretty game. We had too many turnovers. We made a lot of mistakes down the stretch. But we did enough to win the basketball game, and that’s all that’s really important right now.”
Meralco had 23 assists, but that number was overshadowed by the 26 turnovers they committed against the Elite. Blackwater, in return, took advantage and scored 32 points off the Bolts’ miscues.
The Bolts’ errors haunted them in the final frame, where Blackwater erased a nine-point deficit and came within striking distance in the final four minutes.
A Don Trollano layup sliced the deficit to 78-76 with 3:22 to go, but fortunately Meralco had answers in Newsome, who took over again to steady the ship for the Bolts.
Newsome switched on Mike Tolomia on offense in two consecutive possessions and capitalized on the smaller defender, scoring on a turnaround jumper and a three-point play at the rim to give the Bolts an 82-75 advantage with 2:15 to go.
The Elite traded baskets with Meralco and had a chance to come closer after Trollano — who brought within five at 85-80 in the final minute — rebounded his own miss and gave his team another possession, but Blackwater just couldn’t come up with anything more productive after that.
Newsome finished with 19 points to pace all scorers and added eight rebounds and three assists in almost 40 minutes of play. Bong Quinto added 14 points, six assists and four rebounds for the Bolts.
Reynel Hugnatan, who turned 42 on Tuesday, came up big once again and contributed 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go with three rebounds and two dimes — a continuation of what Black said was an unexpected but welcome development from the veteran this conference.
“It’s an amazement that he’s still playing at the level he’s playing at despite the fact he is getting older. We call him pops and he comes to work every day. He puts the work in and keeps his body in great shape,” said Black. “I didn’t expect Reynel Hugnatan would be one of our leading scorers this conference, to be quite honest with you, but I’m accepting the fact that he’s there every single game for us, and he’s playing well so he’s always going to be on the court,” he added.
Two other players in Cliff Hodge (11 points, eight boards) and Allein Maliksi (10) breached double-figure scoring for the Bolts.
It will be a quick turnaround for Meralco, as it will play the second game of a back-to-back Thursday when it takes on Rain or Shine. The Elasto Painters (4-2) are coming off a loss against NLEX earlier.
“The trainers will handle the players. They’ll make sure the guys who picked up any injuries tonight will be taken care of. Our trainer will make sure that they get their conditioning, probably it’ll be in a pool a little bit later after our game today, maybe in the evening,” said Black. “The coaches will have to go to work immediately because I have this superstition that I don’t focus on another team until I’m finished with this team. I watched the Rain or Shine game but I have no idea what they’re doing so I’m gonna have to do a lot of homework between now and this evening.”
Blackwater shot just 37.3 percent overall and fell to its fourth straight loss at 2-5, further endangering the team’s hopes at making a run for one of the lower playoff spots.
The Elite were led by Trollano’s 16 and 6 boards. Richard Escoto added 13, while Roi Sumang and Tolomia finished with 12 and 10, respectively.
Meralco 89 — Newsome 19, Quinto 14, Hugnatan 14, Hodge 11, Maliksi 10, Almazan 7, Black 4, Salva 4, Amer 4, Jamito 2, Jackson 0, Jose 0, Pinto 0.
Blackwater 85 — Trollano 16, Sumang 15, Escoto 13, Tolomia 10, Canaleta 8, Daquioag 6, Golla 5, Belo 4, Magat 4, Dennison 4, Salem 0, Gabriel 0.
Quarters: 25-15, 44-36, 66-59, 89-85.
– Blackwater’s Nino Canaleta and Meralco’s Raymar Jose were both thrown out in the final 5.9 seconds after being assessed flagrant 2 fouls each for a late altercation. Escoto and Nico Salva drained the last two free throws for each team.
– Meralco won despite making just 4-for-18 threes. Bulk of its offense came from the paint — the Bolts scored 42 points and made a healthy 67.7 percent of their shots there. The team also won decisively on the glass, 57-38.
– Meralco vs. Rain or Shine on Nov. 5, Thursday, at 4 p.m
– Blackwater vs. Terrafima on Nov. 5, Friday, at 10 a.m