MERALCO kept the pedal to the metal and has now exacted some form of revenge on Ginebra.
Despite being assured of the No. 2 spot going into the quarterfinals, the Bolts didn’t let up and carved a wire-to-wire 79-66 victory over the Kings yesterday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Mac Belo and Alvin Pasaol each tallied 15 points and seven boards in leading Meralco past the short-handed defending champion and into a fourth straight win since undergoing a two-week forced break due to the league’s health and safety protocols.
The Bolts’ follow-up to a much-harder 104-101 win over NLEX just last Wednesday, which assured them of the No. 2 spot behind TNT going into the quarterfinals, gave them a 9-2 record at the end of their eliminations stint.
It is the best eliminations finish ever by Meralco in the import-less tournament and matched its previous best during the 2017 Governors Cup.
It came at the expense of a Ginebra squad that beat Meralco in their three recent Governors Cup finals meetings and also booted coach Norman Black and his wards in last year’s semifinals in the Angeles City bubble, making the victory sweeter.
Black, though, didn’t say it out loud.
“We really just want to have the momentum going into the playoffs,” he said. “We didn’t want a loss going to the playoffs.”
The loss, its seventh against only four wins, dropped Ginebra into a tie at eighth with Phoenix Super LPG and Terrafirma and breathed life into both the Fuel Masters’ and Dyip’s bids.
The result of the NorthPort-Alaska match later yesterday would determine Phoenix’s foe into the knockout game tomorrow for the last quarterfinals berth. If the Batang Pier win, then it would be Ginebra. Should the Aces prevail, then it would be Phoenix versus Terrafirma and Ginebra out.
A game they would just as soon forget pushed the Kings on the brink and in danger of being the first all-Filipino champion since 1999 winner Formula Shell to fail in its title-retention bid the following year.
Stanley Pringle gallantly tried, finishing with 19 points. So did Christian Standhardinger, who wound up with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
But the absence of the injured Japeth Aguilar and rebounding demon Scottie Thompson, reportedly under safety protocols, led to Ginebra being put on the short end of a 63-36 disadvantage off the boards, as well a 23-7 disparity on second chance points.
The output was also the Kings’ lowest in the conference, brought about by a 30-of-74 field shooting.
Ginebra did stir into life after trailing by 26-45 in the second quarter and by 32-47 at the half, managing to creep within four after Meralco made just three of 18 shots and committed nine turnovers in the third period.
Meralco kept its wits about it, however, with Anjo Caram,Belo and Jammer Jamito taking turns keeping the Bolts’ head above water.