Meralco dominated San Miguel from start to finish and sent the five-time reigning Philippine Cup champions on the brink of being dethroned following a stunning 78-71 win in Game 1 of their quarterfinal series, Friday night at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena and Cultural Center in Angeles City, Pampanga.
Rookie Aaron Black and veteran Reynel Hugnatan conspired in the end game to repulse a late Beermen fightback as the fifth-seeded Bolts forced a rubber match on Sunday against their fourth-seeded victim.
The rousing victory came just a day after head coach Norman Black’s 63rd birthday.
“My birthday was yesterday, but I’ll take these gifts even though it’s a day late,” said Black during the post-game press conference.
“We really needed this win to put a little bit of pressure on San Miguel and send it to a best-of-three series. Our guys played with a lot of heart tonight. They really played hard. We didn’t shoot the ball extremely well tonight. We shot the ball poorly but at the same time, our defense held up,” he added.
Mo Tautuaa paced the Beermen with 14 points along with 11 rebounds while Marcio Lassiter added 12 markers. Chris Ross and Russel Escoto chipped in 10 points apiece.
Veteran guard Alex Cabagnot missed the game due to a strained hamstring and remains day-to-day.
Meralco 78 – Hugnatan 16, Black 14, Amer 12, Newsome 11, Quinto 9, Hodge 6, Faundo 4, Maliksi 4, Jamito 2, Jackson 0, Caram 0, Almazan 0.
San Miguel 71 – Tautuaa 14, Lassiter 12, Ross 10, Escoto 10, Zamar 8, Santos 8, Alolino 6, Gamalinda 2, Mamaril 1, Pessumal 0, Comboy 0.
Quarterscores: 21-11; 40-31; 59-51; 78-71.