PBA Philippine Cup

Bolts ground Hotshots’ late surge for semis breakthrough sans Almazan

JR Isaga
Bolts ground Hotshots’ late surge for semis breakthrough sans Almazan

ALL OUT. Magnolia's Calvin Abueva (center) fight for the rebound against Meralco's Cliff Hodge (left) and Chris Newsome.

PBA Images

Playing minus injured big man Raymond Almazan, Meralco digs deep behind Chris Newsome to trim its semis series deficit against Magnolia

The undermanned Meralco Bolts averted disaster in their 2021 PBA Philippine Cup campaign as they held back the Magnolia Hotshots in Game 3, 91-86, for their first win in the best-of-seven semifinals at the Bacolor, Pampanga bubble on Friday, October 8.

Playing without injured big man Raymond Almazan, Chris Newsome dug deep in a 42-minute marathon, culminating with a clutch mid-range jumper with 6.5 seconds left in regulation for the 91-86 lead, which Magnolia ultimately failed to respond to.

The Bolts’ leader finished with a team-high 17 points and 4 assists to go with 6 rebounds and a steal, while Nard Pinto capitalized on an early hot streak to cap the day with a 16-marker outing on an efficient 5-of-8 clip and 5-of-5 free throws as Meralco cut its series deficit to 2-1.

After leading by as many as 21 points, 75-54, at the start of the fourth quarter, Meralco felt the brunt of a massive 18-2 rally from Magnolia, which inched within 5, 72-77, at the 7:25 mark off a Jio Jalalon layup.

However, Newsome and fellow veteran Cliff Hodge brushed off the comeback effort, and made key stops and buckets to keep a healthy 10-point lead, 84-74, with just 4:20 left in regulation.

The Hotshots made one final 7-1 push to force a single-possession gap, 86-89, off a Rafi Reavis putback, but Newsome simply took matters into his own hands in the Bolts’ final possession to seal the deal for good.

“We’re struggling a little bit because of manpower. We’ve lost a lot of players this conference,” said head coach Norman Black, who also lost key pieces Trevis Jackson and son Aaron Black before Almazan went down.

“But we just looked at this game as a do-or-die game. We had to win this game. I think only one team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, and went back to win the series. So we just treated it like there was no tomorrow for us.”

Despite the thinned-out roster, Black still found an offensive spark in forward Mac Belo, who lit up the bench with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in just 17 minutes, while reserve big man Noy Baclao stepped up well with 10 markers on 5-of-6 shooting in 27 minutes.

Paul Lee led Magnolia in the failed comeback with a game-high 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting, while top Best Player of the Conference candidate Calvin Abueva was held to just 12 markers, 7 boards, and 3 assists in almost 39 minutes off the bench.

The Hotshots, still up 2-1 in the series, will try to quickly regain momentum with a win on Sunday, October 10, 4:35 pm, as the Bolts try to keep their energy up for the long road ahead.

The Scores

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.

– Rappler.com