Meralco bucked the absence of Raymond Almazan and the repeated rallies of Magnolia Pambansang Manok to come away with a 91-86 win and reduce its deficit to 2-1 in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Chris Newsome, Mac Belo and Cliff Hodge provided key numbers while John Pinto and the returning Noy Baclao also played important roles as the Bolts displayed better composure compared to the previous two games to finally get a victory in the best-of-seven series.
The Bolts’ triumph also came despite missing Almazan, who was in uniform but was scratched from yesterday’s match after spraining his left ankle in Game 2.
Coach Norman Black and the Bolts led by 21 early in the fourth but refused to succumb to the pressure of the Hotshots’ final comeback try to avoid a falling behind 0-3 in the series.
“We had to win the game and we treated this game as a no-tomorrow game and it was a must-win for us so all the credit to the players,” said Black.
Newsome topscored with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists, Belo had 14 points and Hodge produced seven points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals after getting tossed in the third quarter of the Bolts’ 92-78 defeat in the previous outing.
Pinto came up with 16 points while keeping his toes on the defensive side while Baclao was given more minutes with Almazan out and put up 10 points while his +9 rating meant that Meralco had a nine-point advantage over Magnolia when he’s on the floor.
Baclao, the top overall pick in the 2010 draft but entered the conference having not played a game since 2019 due to an ACL injury suffered while with Alaska, was averaging 2.0 points and 0.5 rebounds in six games.
Paul Lee scored 18 points but hurt his right shoulder in the first half but Magnolia couldn’t complete a third straight win in the series.
The Hotshots still hold the edge going into tomorrow’s fourth game.
Magnolia got to within three at 51-48 but Meralco went on a 23-6 binge to into the fourth up 73-54.
Meralco made it 75-54 early in the fourth on a basket by Belo, but Magnolia spent the whole period chopping down the margin.
A basket by Rafi Reavis with 29.4 left after recovering Lee’s blocked three-point try cut Meralco’s lead to 89-86, but Newsome warded off Calvin Abueva and knocked down a jumper with 6.4 seconds remaining to seal the deal.
MERALCO 91 — Newsome 17, Pinto 16, Belo 14, Baclao 10, Maliksi 9, Quinto 8, Caram 8, Hodge 7, Hugnatan 2.
MAGNOLIA 86 — Lee 18, Sangalang 15, Abueva 12, Dela Rosa 10, Jalalon 9, Dionisio 8, Ahanmisi 8, Corpuz 2, Barroca 2, Reavis 2, Melton 0.
Quarters: 24-14, 47-37, 73-54, 91-86.