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Zach Lofton stars in Meralco’s 125-99 win against NorthPort with 54 points

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Zach Lofton delivered a scintillating performance, notching an impressive 54 points to lead Meralco to a commanding 125-99 victory over NorthPort in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the PhilSports Arena on Sunday, December 10, 2023.

Lofton’s extraordinary performance marked the Bolts’ third consecutive win, boosting their record to an impressive 5-1.

Lofton, brought in as a temporary replacement for the injured Su Braimoh, seized the opportunity and dazzled with a variety of offensive moves. 

His stellar output, anchored by nine three-pointers, stands as the most points scored in a PBA debut since Troy Williams of Blackwater poured in 55 during last season’s Governors’ Cup. 

Lofton’s remarkable performance left an indelible mark, hinting at the possibility of an extended stay with Meralco.

“I wanted to step into the team and be the force that he was,” Lofton stated, acknowledging Braimoh’s absence. “The team, they believed in me, they helped me get my shots, and ultimately I wanted to help get the win, and we did.”

Meralco coach Luigi Trillo, impressed by Lofton’s impact, hinted at a potential change in plans. Originally brought in to reinforce the EASL and serve as a temporary replacement, Lofton’s outstanding performance has opened the door to a more permanent role with the team.

“We said two games, but with the way he’s playing, the option’s open. He opened the door,” Trillo remarked. “I’m glad, I’m happy we have him now. Obviously, we’ll have to talk with our coaching staff about how we move forward from this. But when you’re rolling, you’re rolling. You stay with it.”

The loss halted NorthPort’s three-game winning streak, dropping their record to 5-3. 

Despite the efforts of rookie Fran Yu, who delivered a career-high 31 points, and Arvin Tolentino, who contributed 25 points, NorthPort faced a formidable Meralco team that dominated the third quarter with a 43-16 rampage, establishing a commanding 92-64 lead.

Venky Jois, hindered by a hamstring injury, struggled to make his usual impact, finishing with nine points and an equal number of rebounds. In his first game back from a nasal fracture, Allein Maliksi contributed 18 points, extending Meralco’s lead to its largest at 112-74 with a charity split.

Chris Newsome and Raymond Almazan added 11 points each, with Almazan also securing 15 rebounds. Rookie Brandon Bates contributed six points but played a crucial role with 11 rebounds and five blocked shots. Lofton’s extraordinary performance not only secured a significant win for Meralco but also raised questions about his potential long-term role with the team as they continue to roll through the competition in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

The boxscores:

Meralco 125 – Lofton 54, Maliksi 18, Newsome 11, Almazan 11, Banchero 8, Quinto 8, Bates 6, Dario 2, Pasaol 2, Hodge 2, Torres 0, Pascual 0, Rios 0.

NorthPort 99 – Yu 31, Tolentino 25, Calma 10, Jois 9, Paraiso 8, Amores 5, Munzon 5, Chan 2, Caperal 2, Ayaay 2, Taha 0, Salado 0, Flores 0.

Quarters: 16-25, 49-48, 92-64, 125-99.

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