ANTIPOLO – Aaron Black and Cliff Hodge joined hands to lift Meralco past TNT in overtime, 124-117, to tie their 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series at a game apiece, Sunday night at the Ynares Center here.
The veteran big man overcame a whiplash late in regulation, scoring the Bolts’ first four points in the extra period that sparked a 10-2 run for a 122-114 lead with 2:12 left to play, the last six of which came from the lefty guard.
KJ McDaniels would hammer the nail in the coffin through a jam in the dying seconds, sealing the W and, more importantly, shifting the momentum in their favor heading into Game 3 on Wednesday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
“I was hoping they would come out with more energy today,” said head coach Norman Black. “We had a hard game against Magnolia [in the quarterfinals] before we played Game 1 and it really showed in the first game.”
McDaniels powered Meralco with a conference-high 39 points and 20 rebounds, alongside four assists, three steals, and three blocks in 46 minutes.
Black had 28 points and a career-high 10 assists for his fourth career double-double — all of which he made this season. Hodge supplied 15 points and nine rebounds, while Allein Maliksi and Bong Quinto added 11 apiece.
“Aaron had a big game today and a lot of the other guys stepped up,” lauded the Grand Slam-winning bench tactician. “KJ played much better today than he did in Game 1, which probably gave us a big lift.”
Mikey Williams, on the other hand, had 29 points on six triples, seven rebounds, and six assists to lead TNT in the comeback that ultimately fell short.
The Tropang Giga were down by a dozen at the half but Williams and fellow gunner Roger Pogoy spearheaded the third-quarter rally to put them ahead.
Coach Jojo Lastimosa’s wards even held a 109-108 lead with under two minutes left in regulation behind Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but missed two crucial free throws on separate trips to the line in the last 21 seconds.
The former NBA cager finished with 27 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the field, alongside 15 rebounds and nine assists in the defeat.
Meralco 124 – McDaniels 39, Black 28, Hodge 15, Maliksi 11, Quinto 11, Banchero 7, Newsome 5, Caram 3, Jose 3, Almazan 2.
TNT 117 – M.Williams 29, Hollis-Jefferson 27,Castro 17, Oftana 13, Pogoy 12, Chua 11, Erram 6, Marcelo 2, Khobuntin 0, Varilla 0, Montalbo 0.
Quarters: 35-30, 59-49, 86-86, 112-112, 124-117.