Outclassed in their first two outings and fighting for their survival in the 2018 FIBA Asia Champions Cup, the Meralco Bolts finally scored a breakthrough.
And it came against no less than the defending Champions Cup titlists Al Riyadi.
The Philippines’ representatives in the 27th edition of the Asian club championships dealt a 96-63 beatdown on Al Riyadi of Lebanon in the final match of the preliminaries. It was the first victory for the Bolts in the eight-nation tournament after consecutive losses to Mono Vampire of Thailand and Alvark Tokyo of Japan.
Inside Stadium 29 in Nonthaburi, Thailand, the Bolts eventually found their offensive mojo against the Lebanese side. Tied at 26 at the 9:28 mark of the second period, Meralco went on a 12-0 tear to waylay the 14-time Lebanese Basketball League champions.
Outscoring Al-Riyadi 26-7 in the said frame, the Bolts never looked back as they continued the shellacking in the next two quarters.
Behind the hot shooting of KG Canaleta and Garvo Lanete, Meralco nailed 45% (10/22) of their attempts from the three-point line. Turnover points went the Bolts’ way, outgunning Al Riyadi 18-2. Meralco also lorded it over Al Riyadi in assists, 20-8.
Overall, the Bolts went 35-of-72 (49%) from the field, compared to Al Riyadi’s 27-of-76 (36%).
More importantly, the 33-point win gave Meralco a ticket to the semifinals. With a 1-2 win-loss card, Meralco ended up tied with Mono Vampire and Al Riyadi. However, a superior point-differential of +14 pushed the Norman Black-mentored squad out of the scrum to join Alvark Tokyo as the qualifiers for Group B.
Lanete and import Diamond Stone both finished with 20 points to pace the Bolts. Canaleta chipped in 18 points, highlighted by four three-pointers. Bassel Bawji led Al Riyadi with 19 markers.
The knockout semifinal matches take place on October 1 at Stadium 29. Meralco battles Group A top finisher Petrochimi of Iran, while Alvark Tokyo clashes with the SK Knights of Korea.
(Image from FIBA)