MERALCO played with a strong burst of energy in a whirlwind second half assault to turn back erstwhile unbeaten Barangay Ginebra 95-88 in the PBA Philippine Cup’s first out-of-town game of the season at the Sports Cultural and Business Center of Davao del Sur in Digos City on Saturday night.
The Bolts fed off the energy provided by hard working Fil-Am rookie Cliff Hodge, who finished the game with an all-around effort of 13 points, six rebounds, four blocks, four assists and two steals en route to earning his second straight Best Player of the Game award.
But credit also goes to left-handed forward Mark Borboran and Macmac Cardona, who presided over the Bolts’ murderous second half explosion, outscoring the highly favored Gin Kings 32-21 in the third quarter to turn a nine-point halftime deficit into a 69-65 lead, entering the final quarter.
Hodge, Meralco’s “energizer bunny,” kept the fire burning for the Bolts as he easily matched the Gin Kings’ physical game with his scrappy plays, going for loose balls and banging bodies with the Gin Kings’ bigger frontline.
The 6-foot-4 Hodge found a way to score a putback off Solomon Mercado’s missed attempt to put the Bolts some buffer, 93-84, with time down to 1:12 in the final period.
Meralco’s defense made it difficult for Barangay Ginebra to stage a last-ditch effort in the final minute of the game, allowing the Bolts to register their second straight win after opening the season with a 112-110 loss to Talk ’N Text.
It was a sorry loss for Barangay Ginebra, which absorbed its first defeat after opening the season with back-to-back victories against newcomer Global Port (110-90) and Rain or Shine (98-94) in a controversial match.
The Gin Kings led by as many as 16 points late in the second quarter behind their sleek running game anchored on Fil-Am Chris Ellis. But they just couldn't sustain the lead while also failing to match the Bolts' inspired plays to drop to 2-1 in a tie with idle Rain or Shine. San Mig Coffee is the lone unbeaten team left in the 10-field Philippine Cup tourney with its 1-0 record.
Cardona and Mercado led the Bolts with 21 and 19 points, respectively, while former UE Red Warrior Borboran added 15.
The 6’4” Ellis and Mark Caguioa led the Gin Kings with 19 points apiece.
MERALCO 95 – Cardona 21, Mercado 19, Borboran 15, Hodge 13, Buenafe 10, Hugnatan 5, Artadi 4, Belencion 4, Salvacion 2, Bulawan 2, Reyes 0, Nabong 0.
BGY. GINEBRA 88 – Ellis 19, Caguioa 19, Jensen 10, Wilson 8, Tenorio 7, Maierhofer 6, Mamaril 6, Raymundo 5, Maliksi 3, Helterbrand 3, Hatfield 2, Cortez 0.
Quarterscores: 16-28; 37-44; 69-65; 95-88.