PBA Philippine Cup

Surviving Bolick scoring spree, Meralco wary of NLEX star with semis spot on the line

Delfin Dioquino

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Surviving Bolick scoring spree, Meralco wary of NLEX star with semis spot on the line

ATTACK. Robert Bolick in action for the NLEX Road Warriors in the 2024 PBA Philippine Cup.

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Meralco draws first blood against NLEX in their best-of-three quarterfinals, but not without surviving a major scare as Robert Bolick erupts for a career-high 48 points

MANILA, Philippines – Meralco withstood an explosive performance by NLEX star Robert Bolick to close in on the semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup.

But if the Bolts want to secure their place in the final four, they know they cannot afford to let Bolick wreak havoc again.

Meralco head coach Luigi Trillo said the team needs to make the necessary adjustments as the Bolts merely escaped with a 97-93 win on Friday, May 10, after Bolick put the Road Warriors on his back with a career-high 48 points.

Turning the Araneta Coliseum into his own playground, Bolick erased his previous career high of 46 points he set earlier this conference by making all but one of his 19 free throws and going 6-of-13 from beyond the arc.

“You have to give it to Robert. He is so good… that it really takes five guys playing defense on him. That is Robert Bolick for you,” said Trillo.

“We’re not pleased with the way we played him,” Trillo added. “We know it is going to be harder. We’re capable of closing it out but we really respect Robert Bolick and we have a lot of things to fix.”

Unlike NLEX, Meralco banked on a balanced attack of six scorers breaching double figures led by Allein Maliksi, who finished with a team-high 22 points on top of 4 rebounds.

Maliksi shot a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line and knocked down key foul shots down the stretch as the Bolts put the shackles on Bolick in the final minute to draw first blood in the best-of-three quarterfinals.

A tough layup by Bolick with 1:05 minutes left allowed the Road Warriors to take a 93-92 lead, but Meralco closed it out on a 5-0 blitz highlighted by four free throws from Maliksi.

Bolick never scored again, with the Bolts defense keying on him to prevent him from becoming the first local to record 50 points in a game since Stanley Pringle reached the half-century plateau for GlobalPort in 2018.

“When [Robert] is hot, he is really hot. He is really a talented guy,” said Maliksi. “When you’re facing Robert, you really have to be on your toes and be sharp on your defense.”

Raymond Almazan backstopped Maliksi with 15 points and 6 rebounds, while Anjo Caram rose to the occasion with 14 points on a spotless 4-of-4 shooting from three-point land.

Chris Newsome added all-around numbers of 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists for Meralco, which extended its winning streak to four games.

Once in jeopardy of missing the playoffs, the Bolts have hit their stride as they wrapped up the elimination round as the No. 3 seed after becoming the only team to beat mighty San Miguel this conference.

Big man Michael Miranda ended up as the only other NLEX player in twin-digit scoring with 14 points.

Miranda gave the Road Warriors their biggest lead at 56-44 at the start of the third quarter before the Bolts slowly but surely chipped away at their deficit and seized the upper hand in the fourth period.

It is far from over for NLEX as it aims to equalize on Sunday, May 12, at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

The Scores

Meralco 97 – Maliksi 22, Almazan 15, Caram 14, Newsome 12, Banchero 12, Quinto 11, Bates 4, Torres 3, Hodge 2, Pasaol 2, Dario 0.

NLEX 93 – Bolick 48, Miranda 14, Rodger 6, Herndon 6, Nieto 5, Semerad 5, Fajardo 4, Marcelo 2, Valdez 2, Amer 1, Anthony 0.

Quarters: 23-28, 44-54, 73-75, 97-93.

– 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.