MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Aaron Black led a balanced effort for the Meralco Bolts in their 111-97 demolition of the San Miguel Beermen in Game 4, Wednesday afternoon at the Araneta Coliseum.
The comfortable victory allowed the Bolts to tie their best-of-seven series in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at two games apiece.
Black had an all-around effort of 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while four other Meralco players scored in double-digits. The Bolts shot a scorching 56% from the field in the victory, while limiting the Beermen to just 38%.
Raymond Almazan earned Player of the Game honors, having scored 12 of his 17 points in the crucial third quarter where Meralco blew the game open. Cliff Hodge made 8-of-11 shots en route to 18 points, and Allein Maliksi had 19 markers.
"We're just trying to get a win, to tie the series. We just tried to take advantage of some of the things that we saw in Game 3. It worked out for us," said Meralco coach Norman Black, who hailed the shot-making of his big men in the game.
It was a wire-to-wire win for the Bolts, who raced to an 18-8 start but had to settle for a five-point lead, 58-53, at the half, thanks to SMB's Marcio Lassiter.
The veteran guard waxed hot in the second quarter, torching Meralco for 18 points on 4-of-4 shooting from long range to bring the Beermen within striking distance.
But the Bolts recovered in the third period, where they out-scored San Miguel, 20-8, to take control of the game for good. Almazan was unstoppable in the quarter, making all four of his field goals including a putback with just half a second on the clock to give the Bolts an 88-71 lead heading into the final frame.
"Sabi sa amin ni coach ng halftime, if we're going to win, let's do it now. Kasi 'pag natalo pa kami, parang mahirap na makabalik," Almazan said of their halftime talk. "Nag-respond naman kami lahat. Lahat kami nag-step up. Basta team effort lang."
Meralco's lead reached 22 points, 94-72, with 10:25 left off two free throws by Bong Quinto. The Beermen trimmed the deficit to 15 points, 95-80, with still over seven minutes left after back-to-back buckets by Rodney Brondial and June Mar Fajardo.
But a shot-clock beating triple by Hodge pushed Meralco's lead back up to 18, 78-80, and the Beermen would not threaten from there. SMB coach Leo Austria emptied his bench with just under three minutes to go, when Meralco had a 107-89 lead.
CJ Perez had 24 points and eight rebounds, while Lassiter finished with 23 points as he was held in check in the second half. Fajardo had another double-double of 21 points and 13 rebounds for San Miguel.
But no other SMB player reached double-digits. Simon Enciso (0/4), Jericho Cruz (1/5) and Mo Tautuaa (0/3) all struggled from the field. The Beermen also left plenty of points on the table as they made just 33 of 46 free throw attempts.
The pivotal Game 5 of the series is set for Friday, still at the Big Dome.
MERALCO 111 -- Black 21, Maliksi 19, Hodge 18, Almazan 17, Quinto 11, Newsome 8, Baclao 4, Belo 4, Hugnatan 3, Banchero 2, Pascual 2, Jose 2, Pasaol 0, Caram 0, Johnson 0.
SAN MIGUEL 97 -- Perez 24, Lassiter 23, Fajardo 21, Brondial 9, Manuel 9, Canete 4, Zamar 3, Cruz 2, Tautuaa 1, Pessumal 1, Ross 0, Enciso 0, Herndon 0.
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