MANILA, Philippines – Meralco denied Phoenix an outright quarterfinal berth and boosted its own bid for a playoff incentive in the PBA Governors’ Cup after pulling off a 92-86 win at the PhilSports Arena on Sunday, March 5.
KJ McDaniels stamped his class on both ends with 19 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 4 steals before he fouled out with 1:30 minutes left as the Bolts closed out the elimination round with two straight wins to improve to 7-4.
The win, though, did not come without as a scare.
Down by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter, 75-90, the Fuel Masters fought back and erected an 11-2 run behind Du’Vaughn Maxwell and Encho Serrano to narrow the gap to 86-92 with under 30 seconds remaining.
Phoenix then earned a shot at making it a four-point game after a Javee Mocon steal, but Maxwell missed a contested shot as they fell short of completing the quarterfinal cast and dropped to 4-7.
Still, the Fuel Masters have the inside track for the playoffs as ninth-place NorthPort (3-7) needs to win its final game against top seed TNT on March 15, to force a sudden death for the last quarterfinal seat.
Aaron Black posted 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals to backstop McDaniels, while Chris Banchero arrested his personal slump with 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Held to single-digit scoring in the last three games, Banchero stepped up in the absence of Allein Maliksi, who served the one-game suspension he incurred for choking Barkley Eboña in their win over Converge two days prior.
Maliksi also got slapped a fine of P75,000.
Cliff Hodge added 12 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals for Meralco, while Chris Newsome made his presence felt with 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Maxwell finished with 29 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals for Phoenix, which wasted its last two chances of securing an outright playoff berth.
The Fuel Masters lost to Barangay Ginebra by 20 points in their penultimate game of the elimination round last Friday, March 3.
Serrano added 20 points and 9 rebounds in the losing effort.
Meralco 92 – McDaniels 19, Black 18, Banchero 13, Hodge 12, Quinto 9, Newsome 8, Almazan 7, Caram 3, Pasaol 3, Jose 0.
Phoenix 86 – Maxwell 29, Serrano 20, Perkins 13, Tio 7, Jazul 6, Camacho 3, Muyang 2, Manganti 2, Mocon2, Garcia 2, Lalata 0, Alejandro 0.
Quarters: 23-22, 47-49, 73-68, 92-86.
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