Meralco Gets Boost from Free Agency

Injury problem pushed the Bolts to sign Canaleta and others

The Meralco Bolts are heading into the league’s 43rd season after losing to the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings in the Governors’ Cup Finals for the second consecutive year. 
While the series went to a Game 7 after Ginebra blew their chances to sweep the series, the Bolts’ latest setback against the Gin Kings raised many questions which included the question of whether the Bolts will ever have what it takes to win their first championship in franchise history.  Will the Bolts go to win a championship anytime soon or will they settle for runner-up finishes?
Head Coach Norman Black is facing an injury issue with his players, not to mention the fact that the Finals series of the closing conference went to a full 7-game series- causing some Bolt players to feel exhausted after playing extended minutes during that series. Ranidel De Ocampo for one, missed the majority of that series due to injury. RDO did sign a new contract with the Bolts but we all know that he’s no longer the same catch-and-shoot guy we all saw during the last few years. Even though he’s a stretched forward, bigger and younger guys are emerging in the PBA and the Bolts need to provide reinforcements for RDO and company if they want to continue to be a competitive team.
Recently, the Meralco Bolts inked deals with free agents Nico Salva, KG Canaleta, Mac Baracael and Jason Ballesteros – all frontline players- to provide the needed reinforcements especially with Cliff Hodge and Reynel Hugnatan taking extended resting periods. This decision by Norman Black to rest his stars will enable the new guys to have bigger playing minutes starting in the upcoming Philippine Cup which starts on December 17.
KG Canaleta, for one, has been around in the league and has an established reputation as a scorer and a good defender too- something that the Bolts sorely needed. Nico Salva is reunited with his college coach so it’s expected that he’ll be playing more for Meralco. Both Mac Baracael and Jason Ballesteros can beef up the defensive strength of the Bolts owing to their brute size.

Conclusion

Canaleta et al will definitely provide more firepower for the Bolts. Now, whether or not these signings by the Bolts will give Meralco its first-ever championship is something that nobody can ever predict because, at the end of the day, one’s consistency will dictate how far one can go, right? 

Balls-Eye: Who’s your MVP this PBA Season?

JunMar Fajardo on a Press Conference after being awarded as the MVP

Every year, more and more players are added to the league, rookies are explosive and veterans’ improvement are seemingly infinite. With this ever widening pool of potential athletes in the Philippine Basketball Association, let us try to narrow down and predict the possible MVP Awardees so here we go.
Let us scratch out the current MVP JunMar Fajardo in the list because of course he is an automatic candidate for everyone watching the PBA but let us include his potential rivals under the rim. We have Gregzilla, Greg Slaughter.

1 – Greg Slaughter

Greg Slaughter is by far Fajardo’s biggest foe in the shaded area. Slaughter has the strength, skill and of course the size to go head-to-head against Fajardo and thus give him a hard time from scoring easy baskets underneath.

2 – Terrence Romeo

If the trade rumor is real, then Terrence Romeo will have the chance to be deployed with a stronger team that may get to the finals or even give him his 1st championship. Romeo always is an MVP material but it’s the Batang Pier’s lack of success that’s holding him back to reach this ever delighted achievement.

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3 – Scottie Thompson

A pointguard who shines with rebounds? It is kinda extraordinary. Scottie Thompson does not just get the arbitrarty rebounds but also significant offensive and defensive boards for his team and not just that, he can penetrate, shoot from the outside and dish out assists. Scottie is a full-package player.

4 – Paul Lee

Who does not know the Leethal Weapon? A crossover artist. The league only has a few numbers which can handle the ball well and perform ankle breaking crossovers. Such players are of course Paul Lee, Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle. With the possession of this considered to be extraordinary talent, Paul Lee is a very dangerous guard who can drive pass or drag you down with his killer crossovers for easy plays.

5 – Cliff Hodge

If there’s a hustle man for the Meralco Bolts, then it is nobody but Cliff Hodge. With extra efforts in rebounding, Hodge always provides the Bolts with an extra push towards victory.
These 5 exceptional athletes are all potential MVP’s but the possibilities aren’t limited to these guys. Who knows what awaits all of us this coming season? We are all here to watch whatever action they’ll give. It’s just great to watch every game while keeping an eye on some potentials and continuously evaluating their performance.

Durham Powers Meralco with 24, Heads to the Finals

Attempted Upset ends in an Upset as Star faltered in the End

Meralco defenders limited Kris Acox to only 4 points. (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
After a come-from-way-behind win in Game 1 and an unmercifully dominant slaughter in Game 2, the Meralco Bolts can book their return trip to the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals with a win in Game 3 against the fading Star Hotshots who will have to do without their star, Paul Lee who has been ruled out for the rest of the series. While Paul Lee was never a factor in the first two games, we all know what a Paul Lee can especially if he is healthy. Unfortunately for the wards of Chito Victolero, they must find a way to turn things around and force a Game 4. A win in Game 3 would be a perfect start.
Just when Star thought that they can actually beat the Meralco Bolts and they certainly almost did, they faltered at the worst possible time as the Bolts were able to hold on for a 91-88 victory in Game 3, sweeping the best-of-5 semifinal series and finally booking their ticket back to the Finals. And, they had to work hard for this victory. 
The moment Chris Newsome started running on a fastbreak opportunity and finished a lay-up and was followed by Jared Dillinger’s first trey of the night, the Meralco Bolts were already on the run as Newsome and Dillinger scored the game’s first 5 points. A few possessions after that sequence, the Star Hotshots answered right back with their mini-scoring run to tie the score at 7 apiece and we all knew from that moment that this game is going to be a high-scoring affair. 
Throughout the opening quarter, Meralco missed several shots, including open ones as Star was able to take the lead, at 15-14 after Mark Barroca completed a 3-point play only to be answered by Baser Amer who drained another three-point shot for Meralco to make it 17-15, in favor of the Bolts. Just when we thought that the Bols were starting to pull away after establishing an 8-point lead, the Hotshots the next 5 points to come within 30-27 to end the first 12 minutes of the game.
After struggling with their possessions that were ruined by turnovers and well-guarded shots, Ranidel De Ocampo and Baser Amer each drained a 3-pointer which gave the Bolts, a 7-point cushion during the early going of the second frame. Raynel Hugnatan later added another long-distance bomb to make it 41-33 with 6:50 remaining on the clock, forcing a timeout from the Star coaching staff. The Bolts’ lead did not go above 8 points as Star was able to bring it down to 6, multiple times. That pattern was finally broken by Allen Durham who scored on a 3-point play to give Meralco, a 54-43 lead going into the halftime break.
Durham had 14 points after the first two quarters to go along with his 7 rebounds. Ranidel De Ocampo was again, effective off the bench with his 10 points which included 2 3-pointers. As a team, the Bolts were making it rain in the first half as they made 7 of their 13 attempts from outside. Overall, Meralco was shooting 58% in the field during the first half and that was one of the reasons why they were in the lead during the first half.
Aldrech Ramos led the way for the Star Hotshots with 8 points off the bench. Marc Pingris and Ian Sangalang had 6 points apiece. Import Kris Acox only managed 2 points on 1 of 5 shooting- a part of the 42% field goal shooting of the Hotshots in the first half.  In addition to this, Star’s performance from beyond the arc was also one of the reasons why they were down early on as they only made 4 of their 11 attempts from rainbow country.
Moments after the Bolts went up by 13 points to open the 3rd quarter, Mark Barroca went on a personal 5-0 run to bring the deficit down to 8 points. After Cliff Hodge made just 1 of 2 free throws, Marc Pingris scored on the other end to bring Star within 7, at 57-50. However, Hodge added 2 more charities and a lay-up to give Meralco another double-digit lead with under 8 minutes left in the quarter. Meralco was hit by a shooting slump anew as Marc Pingris and Mark Barroca each hit a pair of charities to make it a 6-point deficit, at 64-58 with under 5 to play in the quarter as Norman Black was forced to call a timeout.The lead was then trimmed down to the slimmest margin, at 69-68 entering the 4th quarter as Star was able to take advantage of the Bolts’ foul situation throughout the latter part of the 3rd quarter.
Both teams struggled with their shot selection during the first 4 minutes of the final quarter as the Bolts were holding onto a 1-point lead until Mark Barroca, with a pair of charities, gave Star the lead, at 74-73 with 7:53 to go in the game. Turnovers and highly-contested shots starred for the offense of the Bolts which enabled the Hotshots to score on the other end as Star increased their lead to 3 after Pingris scored in the shaded area while by being guarded by Allen Durham.
After a pair of charities from Durham which closed the gap to 1, Jio Jalalon drained a long bomb to give Star a 4-point cushion approaching the final 3:00 mark. With his team needing a basket, Allen Durham drove towards the shaded area and scored on a lay-up with under 2 minutes to play and Chris Newsome added another lay-up to tie the game at 83 apiece with 1:18 remaining on the clock.
Both teams missed their ensuing opportunities to score in the final minute as Meralco used up their final foul to give with 30 seconds to spare as Chito Victolero used the opportunity to draw out a play. Unfortunately, Star was still able to grab the offensive rebound off a Jio Jalalon miss which enabled another timeout from Star. Barroca missed the next three-point attempt of Star and Allen Durham secured the rebound with 3 seconds left and called a timeout. Durham missed on the ensuing possession. Overtime!
After clanking on most of their attempts from outside, Jared Dillinger opened the scoring chores in the extra period with a 3-pointer. From there on, Star missed all of their attempts even as they were able to grab the offensive rebounds. And finally, after scoring just a point in the entire second half, Ranidel De Ocampo scored on a 2-pointer jumper to increase the Bolts’ lead to 5 with 1:17 left in the overtime period. After missing on their next possession off a timeout, Chris Newsome held onto the rebound and Meralco used another timeout. Rafi Reavis scored the first two points of Star in overtime with 35 seconds left only to be answered by a trey from Cliff Hodge which was later answered by another shot from the rainbow country from Mark Barroca with 11 ticks on the clock as Norman Black called for another timeout. Unfortunately, time ran out for Star as the Bolts held on even after losing on a jump ball in the previous possession.
Allen Durham scored 24 points, grabbed 19 rebounds and dished 6 dimes although he turned the ball over 7 times. Cliff Hodge added 18 points while Baser Amer and Jared Dillinger totaled 10 points apiece. Just how the Bolts managed to win this game with 20 turnovers? Answer: They had a better field goal percentage, making 44% of their shots while limiting the Hotshots to 38% field goal shooting.
Despite the mere fact that Star only turned the ball over 7 times, the Hotshots still lost. Mark Barroca almost had a triple-double, registering 21  points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists while playing for 37 minutes. Marc Pingris added 16 points while Jio Jalalon scored 12 off the bench. Kris Acox, like in the previous 2 games of the series, was offensively absent as he concluded his stint with the Hotshots with 4 points on 2 of 9 shooting nightmare.
Scores:
Meralco – 91
Durham 24, Hodge 18, De Ocampo 13, Amer 10, Dillinger 10, Newsome 9, Hugnatan 7, Atkins 0, Yeo 0, Lanete 0, Sedurita 0, Caram 0, Faundo 0, Tolomia 0
Star – 88
Barroca 21, Pingris 16, Jalalon 12, Sangalang 8, Ramos 8, dela Rosa 7, Reavis 6, Acox 4, Gamalinda 3, Melton 3, Lee 0, Simon 0, Abundo 0, Pascual 0, Brondial 0, Mendoza 0                                                                                             
Quarter scores:
30-27, 54-43, 69-68, 83-83, 91-88

Blackwater’s Walker and Maliksi Put on a Show and Forced a Rubber Match

Maliksi’s game-winner forced a rubber match

Henry Walker outperformed Allen Durham in this match-up. (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
For the Blackwater Elite, a win here will give them another game to prove to the rest of the PBA that they do deserve being in the playoffs despite having no consistent superstar. For the Meralco Bolts, they only need one win to move on into the semifinals. For the Bolts, they cannot afford to allow the Elites to build any percentage of confidence in this game because if a team becomes confident that they can score on you no matter where they are in the standings, that’s a dangerous team to play against.
Wanting to prove their worth as they are in the playoffs for the second time in its history, the Blackwater Elite came out in the first quarter with an intensity that forced the Bolts to make shots that either clanked out of the ring or even miserably missed the net. On offense, the Elite were scoring on almost all sorts whether it’s a three-pointer or an inside shot. 
For the Bolts on the other hand, who just came back from an 18-point hole to claim the top spot last Sunday, their offense was a mess and so was their defense. To worsen things, starting point guard Baser Amer who also played during a comeback win against San Miguel was taken out of the game after getting hurt he landed awkwardly during the opening minutes of the game.
The Bolts’ offense started to click in slowly come the second quarter as Cliff Hodge who was elbowed by Blackwater’s import Henry Walker the possession before, knocked down a three-pointer to tie the game at 29 apiece with 6:10 remaining in the quarter. Blackwater actually held a 10-point lead during the opening of the second quarter but thanks to the re-emergence of the Bolts’ defense, the Elite went scoreless for almost 3 minutes before finally broke the dry spell with a three-pointer of their own after that Hodge trey. Since then, it became a scramble for the lead as both teams struggled to hold onto the lead as both teams went into the halftime with the Elite leading at 42-40.
Blackwater for most parts, shot better during the first half, making 48% of their shot attempts including 33% from the three-point line. Allein Maliksi led a Blackwater team whose import Henry Walker was offensively absent during the first 24 minutes of play, with 9 points.
Allen Durham kept the Bolts within striking distance with his 11 points and 8 rebounds in the first half while Cliff Hodge led the Bolts with 12 points to his name. One of the reasons why the Bolts managed to keep it close was their defense which forced the Elite to throw the ball away 9 times during the first half in contrast to 4 turnovers of their own. The Bolts also took advantage of the Elites’ turnovers by outscoring Blackwater in terms of points off turnovers, 12-3.
The Elite started the third quarter by building on a 5-point lead but thanks to their inconsistency on both sides of the court, they never sustained a successful scoring as the Bolts answered every basket that Blackwater. The lead eventually grew up to 6 after Henry Walker drilled another three with under 7 minutes to play in the quarter. 
A few possessions later, both Allen Durham and Dave Marcelo for a technical foul after almost getting into a shoving match as both were battling for a rebound under the Bolts’ basket. From that point on, it was an up and down battle as the lead changed hands multiple as the Bolts went nuts after Cliff Hodge dunked that gave them the lead at 62-61 with 21 seconds to go. However, the Elite was able to grab the lead back at 63-62 after Mike Digregorio scored on a lay-up with 4 seconds to play in the quarter. Digregorio for his part, already had 18 points by then.
While most of the PBA fans believed that the Bolts would finish this one in one game, Allen Maliksi had something else in mind when he drained the potential game-winning jumper as the Blackwater Elite held on for a 92-91 victory over the league-leading Meralco Bolts that forced another game to decide who will move on into the semifinals.
Both teams continued their exchange of baskets as Walker scored on a 3-point play only to be answered by Durham who scored on the ensuing possession. Walker followed that up with a three-pointer which put the lead back to 6 with 7:19 to play that forced Norman Black to call for a timeout because Walker has already scored 13 points during the early minutes of the quarter. Mike Tolomia and Jared Dillinger scored a three-pointer a few possessions and Jared added another trey to give the lead back to the Bolts only for Walker to answer right back with another one from rainbow country.
A Baser Amer trey that was followed by a Newsome fastbreak put Meralco in the lead at 84-81 with 3:36 to play and Leo Isaac called for time. With the Bolts only by a point, Newsome added another lay-up approaching the final 2-minute mark with increased the lead to 3 which would go down to two after Walker made one of the two charities on the next possession. Digregorio added another pair of free throws to tie the game at 86-all and Elite left Baser Amer wide open from the three-point line and they paid the price as Amer nailed the three which put the Bolts up 3.
In the ensuing possession, Jared Dillinger as called for a flagrant foul after hitting Roi Sumang with 1:06 to go. Sumang nailed both technical free throws then Maliksi, who came over to the Elite off a trade from the Star Hotshots earlier this conference, scored on a jumper to put his team up by a point, at 90-89 with 33 ticks on the clock. Knowing that his team needed to score, Durham was able to fish a foul from the Elite but missed both free throws.

Fortunately, Newsome was able to snatch important offensive rebound and quickly passed the ball back to Durham who scored off his own missed shot which put his team back up at 91-90 with seconds to work with. Off a timeout, the Elite quickly went to Maliksi who drained a jumper to give the lead back to Blackwater and Norman Black called for another timeout with 9 seconds left. The Bolts weren’t able to score on the next scoring opportunity as Tolomia’s difficult shot rattled out of the basket as time ran out.

Henry Walker led the way with 30 points and 18 rebounds. Mike Digregorio, without a doubt, played one of his best games with the Elite as he added 20 points while Allen Maliksi added 15 points. The Bolts, on the other hand, had Chris Newsome who led them with 19 points while import Allen Durham and Cliff Hodge added 18 points apiece. Durham also had 21 rebounds to his name.
Shooting percentage was what won it for the Elite as they outperformed the Bolts, making 46% of their attempts including 52% of their attempts from the two-point area. In addition to this, Blackwater committed the lesser turnover in the second half. Free throw shooting was also essential to Blackwater’s victory as Meralco missed more free throws, including the last two from Durham.
Scores:
Blackwater – 92
Henry 30, Digregorio 20, Maliksi 15, Sumang 9, Eram 7, Sena 4, Marcelo 4, Canaleta 3, Belo 0, Miranda 0, Banal 0, Cervantes 0, Cruz, 0, Javier 0, Pinto 0
Meralco – 91
Newsome 19, Durham 18, Hodge 18, Dilinger 12, Tolomia 11, Amer 8, Hugnatan 5, Atkins 0, Yeo 0, Lanete 0, Sedurita 0, Caram 0, Nabong 0, De Ocampo 0, Faundo 0
Quarter scores:
24-17, 42-40, 63-62, 92-91

Who is MP Warriors new pick

Cliff Hodge

Personal: Born in Pensacola, Florida…parents are Charles and Maria Hodge…has two sisters, Christina Cloud and Isabella Hodge, and four brothers, Douglas Hodge, Chris Perlick, Chris Cloud, and Zack Hodge…nickname is “loverboy”…enjoys listening to music and eating chicken…favorite music artists are Lil’ Wayne, Ne-Yo, and Chris Brown…other favorites are movies He Got Game, Love and Basketball, and The Notebook, and athlete Amare Stoudamire…hopes to playing professionally somewhere in 10 years…majoring in Management.

Team pic inside


Prior to HPU: Attended Reedley College in Reedley, California…lettered in basketball under Coach Brian Fonseca…selected to the Central Valley All-Conference Freshman Team in his first season…named to the All-Defensive Team for two seasons. Also a graduate of Lemoore High School in Lemoore, California…lettered in basketball under Coach T.J. Williams…earned First-Team All-League honors.
HPU: Begins second season. 2008-09: Played in 25 games, starting nine…recorded seven blocks and 13 steals on the season…posted 162 points on the season…finished with a .465 field goal percentage…scored double figures in points in four games…had a career high of 22 points in the game against Chaminade (2/18).