Black sparks Meralco

Aaron Black delivered down the stretch to power Meralco to a 96-92 come-from-behind win over San Miguel Beer in Game 6 of their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal series yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Struggling to get his groove in the intermission, Black delivered 11 of his 17 points in the final quarter to help the Bolts level the series to 3-3 and force a sudden-death Game 7 on Wednesday.

No less than his father, Meralco tactician Norman Black, was impressed by how his son bucked the pressure despite teetering on the brink of eliminations.

The veteran mentor said his son is ready for the challenge, knowing that their title chances are on the line.

"I'm happy that he took over the game today. He actually told me: 'Give me the ball and set pick and rolls, I'll get it done,'" the elder Black said.

"He went out and he did it. I'm really happy that he backed up what he was saying on the basketball court."

"I'm really proud of Aaron. I think he's improved a lot in the past few years and his career has been on an upward path here in the PBA."

Black's backcourt partner, Chris Newsome, finished with team-high 19 points and seven rebounds, while Cliff Hodge fired 17 points and 12 rebounds to anchor the defense.

Chris Banchero added 13 points on 3-of-5 three-point shooting while Raymond Almazan wound up 11 markers and seven boards.

As compared to their past five starts, the Beermen painted a different picture this time as they uncorked a more aggressive defense to milk 15 points on 10 Meralco turnovers and mounted a 56-45 gap at the half.

The Bolts sprung back to life with a quick surge late in the third before Banchero tied the game from the three-point area, 74-all, 11:21 in the final canto.

San Miguel gained momentum and made it a 90-80 game but the unyielding Black rose from the ashes and clutched eight straight points that gave them a 93-90 lead with 31.5 seconds left.
CJ Perez had the chance to tie the game from the charity line but missed one of his three shots before Black sealed the win with three straight free throws.
June Mar Fajardo's 23 points and 11 rebounds went down the drain as the Beermen frustratingly missed their chance to book the first spot in the best-of-seven finals series.

The Scores:
MERALCO (96) — Newsome 19, Black 17, Hodge 17, Banchero 13, Almazan 11, Maliksi 7, Pascual 6, Quinto 6, Hugnatan 0, Pasaol 0, Jose 0.
SAN MIGUEL (92) — Fajardo 23, Manuel 16, Lassiter 14, Perez 13, Tautuaa 8, Cruz 8, Enciso 8, Brondial 2, Ross 0, Herndon 0.
QUARTERS: 33-22, 56-45, 74-71, 96-92.

Daily Tribune