MANILA, Philippines – The Magnolia Hotshots secured a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals after taking down the Meralco Bolts in a close one, 88-85, in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Wednesday, March 2, at the Araneta Coliseum.
Import Mike Harris showed the way with a monster double-double of 30 points and 22 rebounds as the Hotshots remained as the No. 1 team in the league with an 8-1 record.
The Bolts, meanwhile, absorbed their second straight loss and dropped to 6-3 – tied with the Alaska Aces for the third spot in the standings.
Coming off a painful buzzer-beating loss to the Aces in their previous outing, the Bolts came out firing from the get-go and quickly built a double-digit cushion at the end of the opening frame, 23-11.
Still leading by double figures at the half, 47-36, the Bolts kept their foot on the gas early in the third period to stretch their lead to as many as 16, 53-37.
Unfortunately for Meralco, Magnolia managed to crawl its way back and steal the lead heading into the fourth frame, 68-66, thanks to the hot hands of Adrian Wong, who scored 8 points in the final 2 minutes of the third canto.
In the payoff period, with Magnolia still up by 1, 83-82, with only 1:28 left to play, Harris, the former Best Import of the Conference, delivered a crucial and-one play off an offensive rebound to put the Hotshots’ lead back to a two-possession game, 86-82.
An Allein Maliksi triple with 42 seconds remaining sliced Magnolia’s lead back to 1, 86-85, before Harris once again converted on a tough layup, which ultimately sealed the win for the Hotshots as Maliksi failed to sink the game-tying three-pointer in the next play.
Paul Lee backstopped Harris with 16 points, while Wong, Mark Barroca, and Jio Jalalon all contributed 10 points each for the undermanned Hotshots, who are missing the services of key players Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang, and Rome Dela Rosa.
On the other side, Meralco import Tony Bishop was limited to just 19 points, to go along with 14 rebounds, while Chris Newsome added 18 markers.
Maliksi and Chris Banchero also chipped in 13 points apiece for the Bolts.
The Hotshots will look to extend their winning streak to three games when they tangle with the Aces on Sunday, March 6, at 4 pm, while the Bolts look to snap their two-game losing skid when they face the San Miguel Beermen on Saturday, March 5, at 6:30 pm.
Magnolia 88 – Harris 30, Lee 16, Wong 10, Barroca 10, Jalalon 10, Reavis 6, Corpuz 4, Escoto 2, Brill 0, Ahanmisi 0, Dionisio 0.
Meralco 85 – Bishop 19, Newsome 18, Banchero 13, Maliksi 13, Almazan 6, Hodge 5, Caram 5, Black 4, Belo 2.
Quarters: 11-23, 36-47, 68-66, 88-85.