Jun 04, 2023

Meralco starters deliver, hold off Converge

MERALCO refused to wilt in the face of unrelenting pressure from Converge to eke out a 96-88 win in the PBA On Tour Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.

Allein Maliksi's team-high 16 points and heads-up plays by Anjo Caram, Cliff Hodge and Raymond Almazan in the stretch enabled the Bolts to finally turn back the FiberXers' stiff challenge.

Caram highlighted his 15-point performance by booming in a triple, sparking Meralco's surge from an 85-84 count and into the big bounce-back win from a 93-100 loss to Phoenix Super LPG last week while improving in the pre-season tournament, presented by Arena Plus and sponsored by Bingo Plus, to a 2-1 slate.

Hodge finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Almazan notched his own double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds and Alvin Pasaol 10 points while leading the Bolts' blitzing start as all coach Luigi Trillo's starters scored in double figures.

"Being a professional kailangan ko lang gawin trabaho ko... lalo na ngayon na we're learning a new system. Mga top players namin wala so kailangan naming magtulungan talaga para manalo," said Caram in summing it all up for his teammates.

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"For me, personally, ang mindset ko is 'be ready' lang always, do your job whether gamitin ka five minutes, 20 minutes, pagpasok sa loob ng court ibigay lang lahat ng focus, do the right plays lang, give your all lang palagi," added Caram.

Meralco's tenacity was on full display in the fourth quarter, where it held Converge to a measly 4-of-21 shooting from the field. The FiberXers, however, still managed to make it close by pouncing on the Bolts' early into penalty by canning eight of their 12 charity tries.

"We want to keep the momentum fast kasi nag-focus kami sa stops namin. Kasi kapag nakaka-stop kami doon kami nakakakuha ng easy shots sa transition," related Caram, referring to Meralco racing to a 16-2 start, only to be put in a corner when the FiberXers grittily fought back and even posted a 78-72 lead.

"Medyo nakahabol sila nu'ng di kami nakaka-stop, di kami nakakatakbo," noted Caram. "Noong fourth quarter we tried our best to get some stops para makatakbo kami, nasa flow kami ng offense namin."

Despite a bloodied nose he suffered following a collision with Caram in the second period, Jeron Teng still finished with 21 points to lead Converge, which also drew 12 points and 15 rebounds from Justin Arana.

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Barkley Ebona, who sparked the FiberXers' early fightback, also had 12 points along with Kevon Racal while Alec Stockton flirted with a triple-double to the tune of 11 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists as the team suffered its second straight loss and dropped to 1-2.

The victory could be a costly one for Meralco as Norbert Torres had to exit the game due to a bad back following a rebounding battle with Arana past the halfway point of the third period. The veteran frontliner had nine points. (NC)