Magnolia Pambansang Manok moved on the verge of advancing to the PBA Philippine Cup Finals after holding off Meralco, 81-69, for a 3-1 lead in their semis series Sunday, Oct. 10 at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Mark Barroca’s triple with 2:11 remaining not only put the Hotshots out of danger zone but also a win shy of reaching the title series of the All-Filipino conference for the third time in the last four years.
The Hotshots now have three tries to finish off the Bolts, beginning with Game 5 tentatively set Wednesday, Oct. 13.
Barroca’s shot came after Meralco got to within five, 74-69, from a high of 22 while also losing Magnolia’s Calvin Abueva with 4:11 left after being forced to sit down for a Flagrant Foul 1.
“We know na babalik sila and this is not an easy game,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero. “But we stayed composed on our last possession and then Mark hit the three. So we weathered that storm.”
Barroca finished with 17 points and six assists while Abueva and Sangalang also had the same amount of points for Magnolia.
Jio Jalalon also was key for the Hotshots with 10 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Magnolia led from start to finish as Meralco was once again without injured center Raymond Almazan for the second straight game.
Abueva’s three-point play made it 64-42 with 4:13 remaining in the third period, but the Bolts slowly tried to make their way back.
Meralco’s defense in the fourth limited Magnolia to 2-of-15 while gaining more momentum when Abueva got a Flagrant 1 after another rebound situation with series nemesis Cliff Hodge.
Down 74-62, the Bolts put up seven consecutive points with Hodge draining two free throws from that infraction, Chris Newsome making a jumper and Hugnatan knocking down a three-pointer with 2:34 left.
Magnolia barely avoided an eight-second violation before Barroca sank the triple that put a death knell on Meralco.
MAGNOLIA 81 — Barroca 17, Abueva 17, Sangalang 17, Jalalon 10, Lee 9, Ahanmisi 5, Dionisio 4, Corpuz 1, Reavis 1, Dela Rosa 0.
MERALCO 69 — Hugnatan 21, Hodge 13, Newsome 11, Quinto 7, Pinto 6, Belo 3, Maliksi 2, Pasaol 3, Baclao 3, Caram 0.
Quarters: 23-18, 46-35, 68-50, 81-69.