MANILA (UPDATED) - The Meralco Bolts are on the verge of advancing to the semifinals of the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup after a comfortable 93-82 victory against Barangay Ginebra on Sunday night at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts took a 1-0 lead in their best-of-3 quarterfinals series, sending the Gin Kings to the brink of elimination from the all-Filipino conference.
Four players scored in double-digits for Meralco, led by Aaron Black with a career-high tying 25 points along with four assists and three rebounds. Chris Newsome earned Player of the Game honors after an all-around effort of 19 points, nine boards, and six dimes.
The game was not as close as the final score indicated, as Meralco was in control for the bulk of the contest and even led by 21 points in the fourth quarter.
"We just had to keep our composure," said Meralco deputy coach Luigi Trillo, who is still calling the shots for the Bolts in lieu of Norman Black. "I don't think Ginebra's gonna roll over and die. They're the never-say-die team."
"So, we know even if we get a 15-point lead or an 18-point lead, it's never safe," he added.
But the Bolts had more than enough to weather Ginebra's repeated attempts to cut into the deficit. A buzzer-beating floater by Allein Maliksi gave Meralco an 80-62 advantage entering the fourth frame, and the lead swelled to 21 points, 91-70, off a Bong Quinto slam dunk with just under eight minutes to go.
The Gin Kings made a late run, with Scottie Thompson anchoring a small line-up that trimmed the deficit to just 12 points, 91-79, with still three minutes left thanks to a Nards Pinto layup.
Ginebra ran out of time, however. Chris Banchero answered on the other end with a floater to settle the Bolts, and a layup by Aljon Mariano with a minute and a half to go did little to change the outcome of the contest.
Allein Maliksi contributed 17 points and five rebounds, while Cliff Hodge had 10 markers for Meralco, which shot 48.7% from the field.
Thompson netted 29 points on top of 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals, but he also had four turnovers in the contest. Christian Standhardinger had 12 points and Japeth Aguilar added 10, but both big men were kept off the boards and combined for just nine rebounds in the game.
More concerning for Ginebra is that their other guards were shut down: Stanley Pringle went 2-of-8 from the field for six points, and LA Tenorio missed all five of his attempts to finish scoreless.
Ginebra will try to extend the series on Friday's Game 2 at the FilOil EcoOil Centre in San Juan.
MERALCO 93 – Black 25, Newsome 19, Maliksi 17, Hodge 10, Quinto 9, Almazan 5, Banchero 4, Pascual 4, Johnson 0, Hugnatan 0, Pasaol 0
GINEBRA 82 – Thompson 29, Standhardinger 12, Chan 11, J.Aguilar 10, Pinto 8, Pringle 6, Mariano 5, Onwubere 1, David 0, Tenorio 0
QUARTERS: 32-25, 53-43, 80-62, 93-82