MANILA, Philippines -- Meralco center Raymond Almazan was a man on a mission for the Bolts on Wednesday, as he delivered big numbers in their crucial game against San Miguel Beer.
Knowing that they could not afford to be down 1-3 in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series against the Beermen, Almazan came up with his best game of the series to help the Bolts force a 2-2 deadlock.
Almazan scored 12 of his 17 points in the pivotal third quarter, while also grabbing six rebounds in Meralco's 111-97 win against the Beermen. He was 6-of-8 from the field, and 4-of-5 from the free throw line in 23 minutes of action.
"This was an important game eh," Almazan said. "Kung sino nasa loob ng court, kumpiyansa lang. Sabi ni coach confidence lang sa tira mo kasi 'yun talaga 'yung binibigay sa'min ng San Miguel eh."
Almazan earned Player of the Game honors but he was not the only Bolt to shine; as a team, Meralco shot over 56% from the field and had five players in double digits.
Meralco coach Norman Black hailed the confidence of his big men, who made the San Miguel defense pay for focusing on their guards. Chris Newsome and Chris Banchero were limited, but the Meralco bigs feasted.
Cliff Hodge was 8-of-11 from the field for 18 points, and forward Bong Quinto added 11.
"If you look at Game 3, they were taking away the penetrations of my guards and were giving the bigs the shots, and they didn't make them or we turned the ball over," Black noted.
"But in this game, the guys were much, much more confident when they received the pick-and-roll and off of the trap," he added.
Almazan had struggled in Game 3, scoring only four points in a Meralco loss while missing a bunch of point-blank shots. But he made up for it with a more confident performance in Game 4, even drilling a three-pointer.
"Syempre nanonood kami ng tape, so kailangan namin i-take 'yung ganoong opportunities para ma-tie namin 'yung series. 'Yun lang," said Almazan.
"Sabi ni coach sa dugout, kung gusto talaga namin manalo, kunin na namin 'yung third. Ayun. Nag-contribute kami lahat so we got the win," he added.
On the other end, Almazan credited his fellow bigs for the work they did against San Miguel center June Mar Fajardo, who labored to get his 21 points and 13 boards in the loss.
"It was a team effort talaga kasi hindi naman mas-stop ng one man si June Mar. So kailangan talaga namin magtulong-tulong at maniwala sa game plan ni coach na mas-stop namin si June Mar," said Almazan.
The pivotal Game 5 of the series is on Friday, with Almazan and the Bolts looking to take a step closer towards the Finals of the All-Filipino Conference.
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