By Adrian Stewart Co
Meralco Bolts stayed alive in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals following a 78-71 upset over defending champions San Miguel Beermen (SMB) last night at the AUF Sports Arena & Cultural Center in Pampanga.
Bacolodnon center Reynel Hugnatan top-scored with 16 points and seven rebounds, while rookie Aaron Black and Baser Amer added 14 and 12 markers, respectively, for the Bolts.
The Bolts, which ended the elimination round as the No. 5 seed team, will face the Beermen anew in a do-or-die game on Sunday to determine which team will advance to the semis. SMB has a twice-to-beat advantage for finishing at No. 4.
The Bolts surged to a 19-6 start with early hits from Chris Newsome, Kier John Quinto and Clifford Hodge. The lead stayed at 34-18 in the second period with hits from Hugnatan but the Beermen clawed to within 31-40 at the half.
Back-to-back hits by Hugnatan to kick off the third period widened Meralco’s lead to 46-31 but San Miguel had a quick response from Moala Tautuaa and Marcio Lassiter to come to within 51-59.
The Bolts increased the lead to 69-58 early in the fourth with baskets from Black but the Beermen clawed to as close as 67-71 before Meralco sealed the win with hits from Hugnatan, Black and Amer.
Tautuaa finished the match with double-double 14 points and 11 rebounds, Lassiter added 12 markers, while Richard Escoto and Chris Ross contributed 10 points each for the Beermen.
MERALCO 78 – Hugnatan 16, Black 14, Amer 12, Newsome 11, Quinto 9, Hodge 6, Faundo 4, Maliksi 4, Jamito 2, Almazan 0, Jackson 0, Caram 0.
SAN MIGUEL 71 – Tautuaa 14, Lassiter 12, Escoto 10, Ross 10, Santos 8, Zamar 8, Alolino 6, Gamalinda 2, Mamaril 1, Pessumal 0, Comboy 0.
Quarterscores: 21-11, 40-31, 59-51, 78-71./ASC, WDJ