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HOOPS

Bolts shine sans Black

Games Saturday

(Philsports Arena)

4:30 p.m. — NLEX vs Phoenix

6:45 p.m. — TNT vs NorthPort

Despite playing without its head coach, Meralco still found the resolve to pick up its first win as it beat Terrafirma, 105-92, in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Import Johnny O’Bryant stepped up to make up for the absence of key player Chris Newsome while Allein Maliksi and Bong Quinto also worked double time offensively for the Bolts, who played without head coach Norman Black who had been placed under health and safety protocols.

O’Bryant, a National Basketball Association veteran, finished with 31 points and 11 boards, before he was pulled out of the game in the late stretch after absorbing an incidental elbow at the midsection from Terrafirma reinforcement Lester Prosper.

Maliksi knocked in 18 markers, including four three-point shots and teamed up with Quinto in the crucial stretch, allowing the Bolts to outscore the Dyip, 26-16, in the fourth period.

Quinto came away with 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals and his improved performance covered up some of the numbers being produced by the injured Newsome.

Newsome suffered a contusion on his calf in the Bolts’ first game against NorthPort and has missed their last two games. He is expected to join the practices next week.

“It could be a week or two depending on the doctors, but my body is responding well,” Newsome told Daily Tribune.

Assistant coach Luigi Trillo, on the other hand, continued his impressive winning percentage as pinch-hitting coach, just like what he did the previous conference where he was credited for steering the Bolts to a playoff run and booting out Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the quarterfinal round.

Although Newsome had expressed interest in returning the soonest possible time, the Bolts are in no rush to bring the star guard back in the lineup and will wait the full recovery period before allowing the player to suit up.

“He’s been working double time, for Meralco and Gilas. We feel for New, but we believe we have players who can step up so ideally, we’re looking at the three to four weeks period,” Trillo added.

Aaron Black also had a steady game for the Bolts, contributing 17 points, three rebounds, five assists and two steals.

The loss was the fourth straight this conference for the Dyip, who are still searching for that elusive victory. The team had lost 20 consecutive games, stretching back to the Governors’ Cup last season.

Terrafirma had a winless campaign in the Philippine Cup, dropping all its 11 games in the elimination round and got booted out of the playoff race early.

The scores:

MERALCO (105) — O’Bryant 31, Maliksi 18, Quinto 17, Black 17, Banchero 12, Almazan 8, Hodge 2, Pasaol 0, Johnson 0, Pascual 0, Jose 0, Caram 0.

TERRAFIRMA (92) — Prosper 35, Camson 11, Gomez de Liano 11, Tiongson 11, Cabagnot 10, Munzon 8, Alolino 2, Calvo 2, Gabayni 2, Cahilig 0, Javelona 0, Mina 0.

QUARTERS: 26-27, 55-52, 79-76, 105-92

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