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Bolts Gear Up to Face Tough Competition in Test Run

Meralco is now looking ahead to games that will test whether its current run of form in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup can stand the rigors of high-pressure play against the league heavyweights.

After taking down the struggling Converge FiberXers to become the third team to secure a quarterfinals berth, the Bolts will face Barangay Ginebra on Friday in an important game that can more or less gauge the readiness of the Bolts to go really deep.

“Obviously Zach (Lofton) has been a different weapon, and it has allowed us to go small,” Bolts coach Luigi Trillo said after the Bolts prevailed, 105-99, on Sunday at Ynares Center in Antipolo City, with Lofton showing the way with 30 points and eight rebounds.

“But that’s just one game, and now we will face Ginebra and they have multiple lineups. They have a big lineup and they have guys who can switch.”

Ginebra is the first massive challenge for Meralco going into the homestretch of the eliminations.

After Ginebra and two games in the East Asia Super League bridging into the new year, Meralco travels to Iloilo City for a Jan. 6 match with Magnolia, still on top of the standings despite seeing its unbeaten record come to a halt after seven games with Saturday’s loss to Rain or Shine in Cagayan de Oro City.

Four days after will see Meralco facing Phoenix, which currently shares second spot at 6-1.

“We just have to ride it, but again it was also a bit of a meltdown for us at the end [against Converge],” added Trillo.

The Bolts led comfortably for most of the second half until the FiberXers narrowed the gap late in the match, which made the final score somewhat respectable for the losing side.

But Meralco is now at full strength as Aaron Black made his return after missing the previous four matches, while two players with recent injuries are also performing well.

A masked Allein Maliksi scored 20 points behind four triples, while Chris Banchero posted 21 for the Bolts and Bong Quinto made most of his 13 in the first half when the lead ballooned.

Converge fell to a share of the bottom part of the table with Blackwater at 1-7. Justin Arana finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds.