PBA Philippine Cup

‘My turn to step up’: Maliksi regains scoring touch as Meralco moves on cusp of first PBA title

Delfin Dioquino

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‘My turn to step up’: Maliksi regains scoring touch as Meralco moves on cusp of first PBA title

ATTACK MODE. Allein Maliksi in action for the Meralco Bolts in the 2024 PBA Philippine Cup.

PBA Images

Allein Maliksi turns in his finest performance of the PBA Philippine Cup finals as Meralco seizes a 3-2 lead over San Miguel to close in on a breakthrough championship

MANILA, Philippines – If Meralco were to ever win its first PBA championship, Allein Maliksi knows he has to do his part.

Giving the Bolts an offensive jolt, Maliksi turned in his finest performance of the Philippine Cup finals as Meralco closed in on the crown after a 92-88 win over San Miguel in Game 5 at the Araneta Coliseum on Friday, June 14.

Maliksi churned out 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting along with 5 rebounds and 1 block to power the Bolts to a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven affair.

“I’m asking plays for myself. I’m more assertive in terms of offense,” said Maliksi in a mix of Filipino and English. “I challenged myself to be aggressive, to be a leader, to be a veteran.”

This All-Filipino title clash has seen plenty of heroes rise to the occasion for Meralco, which has overturned expectations after being tipped as heavy underdogs at the start of the series.

Chris Newsome erupted for a career-high 40 points in Game 4, while Cliff Hodge put up a season-high 25 points in Game 2, although their performances went down the drain as the Bolts dropped both matches.

Raymond Almazan also shared the spotlight when he bounced back from a scoreless Game 2 outing with a 17-point, 13-rebound double-double in their Game 3 win, holding his own against seven-time MVP June Mar Fajardo.

Maliksi delivered in their Game 1 victory with 15 points, but he got limited to single-digit scoring in each of the next three games on a dismal 28% clip.

So it was a breath of fresh air to see Maliksi take charge as he relieved Newsome some of the offensive burden and provided Meralco another scoring option.

“I need to step up because New, Bong (Quinto), Raymond, and Cliff have stepped up. It is my turn to step up as well,” said Maliksi.

Newsome continued his stellar play with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, knocking down a pair of crucial free throws with under 10 second remaining that kept the Beermen at bay.

San Miguel got buried by as deep as 80-90 after a Maliksi bucket with 3:25 minutes left before it went on a blistering 8-0 run capped by a CJ Perez three-pointer and free throw to inch within a single possession, 88-90.

But the Bolts held on thanks to Newsome, who calmly sank his foul shots as he finished a perfect 10-of-10 from the line.

“It was all about composure. We knew they were going to come back. San Miguel is a strong team and we’re not disregarding that fact,” said Maliksi.

Almazan and Chris Banchero added 14 points and 12 rebounds as Meralco grabbed a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series for the first time in franchise history.

Beermen star June Mar Fajardo reset his season high with 38 points (14-of-17 on field goals and 10-of-10 on free throws) on top of 18 rebounds and 2 blocks, but he lacked sufficient help from his teammates.

CJ Perez supplied 17 points, albeit on a poor 4-of-16 clip from the field, while no other San Miguel player breached twin digits in scoring as the Beermen failed to reach 90 points for the third time this finals – all ending in losses.

On pace to surpass PBA legend Allan Caidic for second place in the all-time three-pointers list, Marcio Lassiter missed all of his three attempts from beyond the arc and wound up with just 6 points for San Miguel.

The Scores

Meralco 92 – Maliksi 22, Newsome 22, Almazan 14, Banchero 12, Quinto 8, Bates 6, Hodge 6, Caram 2, Rios 0, Torres 0, Pascual 0.

San Miguel 88 – Fajardo 38, Perez 17, Lassiter 6, Romeo 6, Cruz 6, Tautuaa 5, Trollano 5, Ross 3, Manuel 2.

Quarters: 24-25, 47-46, 69-70, 92-88.

– Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

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.