Cliff Hodge draws praise after recharging Bolts in surprise return from injury
Cliff Hodge was supposed to rest two more weeks but decided to play and help turn things around for Meralco. Jerome Ascano

CLIFF Hodge’s return gave Meralco just the boost the Bolts needed to snap their three-game slide in the PBA Philippine Cup at the expense of the Kia Picanto, 105-76 on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

In his first game back after a layoff caused by bone spurs on his feet, Hodge’s energy was contagious on both ends as the Bolts displayed the defensive teeth that was sorely missing in the past three games.

“Nobody’s happier than me to see him back. I mentioned earlier about the lack of effort against TNT and we seemed to have a low energy level against TNT. We all know that’s all Cliff is about, about energy and effort,” said Meralco head coach Norman Black.

“Probably just his presence really helped us a great deal tonight because he does give a lot of effort out there, particularly on the defensive end. He’s a good team player so I’m happy to see him back,” he added.

Hodge didn’t play much in his return but still had an impact on both ends as he made all four of his shots for eight points to go along six rebounds and three assists in less than 19 minutes of action.

The 6-foot-4 Hodge, though, wasn’t even supposed to play as he was set to be out for at least two more weeks. But seeing the urgency to help his squad, he couldn’t just sit back and watch any further.

“I know that we needed some wins so I said if I can go up and down (I will play),” said Hodge.

“I’m not 100 percent but I mean, I can go out there on defense. I just decided to come back and try and do whatever I can for my team,” he added.

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Turning 30 on February, Hodge said that he will now have to work double-time in getting back to game shape and help turn things around for Meralco.

“I’m really out of shape. I haven’t played basketball in about three months and I’ve only practiced in like two days. I just need to get back in shape,” he said.

“It’s going to be sore but as long as I can run up and down the court, I’m going to play as hard as I can.”  

Follow the writer on Twitter: @CAJacinto11