The Meralco Bolts celebrated the return of coach Norman Black with a 99-88 triumph over the San Miguel Beermen on Friday in Game 2 of their best-of-seven 2022 Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup semifinals at the Araneta Coliseum.
Cliff Hodge gave Black a warm welcome as he struck with 17 points and 14 rebounds to help the Bolts equalize the series at 1-all.
Allein Maliksi knocked in 15 points for the Bolts, who also relied on Aaron Black and Reymar Jose in the final period to move them out of trouble.
Black scored 14 points with Chris Newsome, while Jose chipped in 13 for the Bolts, who will seek a 2-1 lead against the Beermen in Game 3 on Sunday, also at the Big Dome.
Jose banged in 10 points, while Black shot seven points in the last period as the Bolts proved steadier in the dying minutes.
Junemar Fajardo unloaded 22 points, including a layup underneath that allowed the Beermen to stay close for the last time at 74-76, with 10:30 left.
But Jose’s triple followed by two charities provided answers for every basket scored by Fajardo in the last 8:50 as Meralco went on to move out of range, 83-76.
The Bolts then started protecting a nine-point edge, 85-76, following Black’s sniping.
“We wanted everybody got involved in the offense. It made it even more difficult for teams to stop us, more manageable if a lot of guys out there are scoring,” said Black.
The American mentor earlier left the team’s coaching chores to Luigi Trillo after staying for weeks in the United States to grieve the death of his mother.
Fajardo made 10 points in the final period, but they were not enough to stop the Bolts, who moved up by 10 on Raymund Almazan’s layup in the final 4:19, 90-80.
Meralco 99 – Hodge 17, Black 15, Maliksi 15, Newsome 14, Jose 13, Banchero 9, Quinto 9, Almazan 7, Pasaol 0, Baclao 0, Pascual 0, Belo 0, Caram 0.
San Miguel 88 – Fajardo 22, Lassiter 16, Perez 14, Cruz 11, Manuel 7, Herndon 6, Tautuaa 5, Brondial 4, Ross 3, Enciso 0.
Quarters: 34-20, 51-48, 76-72, 99-88.