The Meralco Bolts relied on fresh legs to fashion out a 79-66 stopping of the reigning champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings Thursday at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Mac Belo, Anjo Caram and Alvin Pasaol took turns in providing the needed energy on the floor as they kept the Bolts, who formally entered the quarterfinals of the 2021 Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup.
Belo and Pasaol banged in 15 points each for the Bolts, who finished their elimination-round campaign with four straight wins and a 9-2 win-loss record in second place.
“So far, it has been about balance. I guess a lot of the guys stepped up, Mac, Caram. So it’s just (about) the next man as far as we’re concerned,” said Bolts’ coach Norman Black.
The 6’4” Belo, picking up from the role that Allein Maiksi played when he led scoring the other day, knocked in a trey with 6:10 left, to put the Bolts safely ahead by 10, 68-58.
Pasaol’s layup found its mark in the last 6:04 of the third period, allowing the Bolts to move ahead, 52-45.
Caram drilled in only four points, but his followup of Maliksi’s miss kept the Bolts in front, 57-51 with 11:07 to go in the last period.
Caram’s steal off Stanley Pringle and basket in the remaining 8:12, protected the Bolts’ advantage, 63-53.
The setback was the Gin Kings’ seventh in 11 matches and it brought the defending champions close to getting eliminated, as they shared similar 4-7 slates with the Phoenix Fuel Masters and the Terrafirma Dyip.
Pringle had 19 points, while Christian Standhardinger added 17 for the Gin Kings, who trailed by as much as 19 points before they fought back in the third period.
Ginebra will now count on a victory by NorthPort in its game with the Alaska Aces in order to have a knockout match for the eighth seed against the Phoenix Fuel Masters.