Meralco survived a contentious exit of Chris Newsome after gutting out a 102-98 win over Magnolia to stay alive in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga on Wednesday, October 13.
Left without arguably its best player in Newsome, who fouled out with seven minutes left, the Bolts banked on Allein Maliksi and John Pinto to shave their deficit in the best-of-seven series to 2-3.
Maliksi dropped a conference-high 29 points and hit some big shots down the stretch, scoring 9 straight points in a fiery personal run that gave Meralco a 99-93 lead with 1:30 minutes left.
The Hotshots, though, did not go down without a fight and narrowed the gap to a single possession, 98-100, off a crucial Calvin Abueva three-pointer and alley-oop layup.
But the Bolts held on in the dying seconds, with the returning Raymond Almazan fighting through pain and sinking the insurance free throws.
Maliksi could not have picked a better time to erupt as he shot 7-of-8 from long range, just days after shooting 0-of-4 from three-point land in an uninspired two-point performance in their Game 4 loss.
Like Maliksi, Pinto also delivered a conference-high of 24 points on a 9-of-17 clip to go with 5 assists.
Newsome chalked up 23 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds for Meralco before sitting on the bench for the rest of the match after a questionable foul call on Mark Barroca.
Almazan also stepped up big for the Bolts, tallying 9 points and 10 rebounds in his comeback game from a foot injury.'
Barroca reset his conference-high in points for the second straight game with 25 points on a near-perfect 9-of-10 shooting as he put Magnolia in the front seat 83-77 early in the final salvo.
However, the Hotshots failed to close out the game and the series after getting outscored 25-15 in the last seven minutes.
Abueva finished with 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists in the loss, while Ian Sangalang chimed in 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Meralco 102 – Maliksi 29, Pinto 24, Newsome 23, Almazan 9, Hugnatan 6, Hodge 4, Belo 4, Quinto 3, Jackson 0, Caram 0, Pasaol 0.
Magnolia 98 – Barroca 25, Abueva 19, Sangalang 15, Lee 13, Jalalon 12, Ahanmisi 8, Reavis 6, Dela Rosa 0, Corpuz 0, Dionisio 0.
Quarters: 23-33, 45-47, 69-71, 102-98.
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.