MANILA, Philippines – Meralco reasserted its mastery over Magnolia to move one win away from a finals berth in the PBA Governors’ Cup following a 101-95 win at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday, March 27.
After dropping the series opener, the Bolts have won back-to-back games to nail a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five semifinals and close in on their first finals appearance since the 2019 Governors’ Cup.
Meralco import Tony Bishop submitted his finest game of the series yet after churning out a game-high 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 steals as the Bolts dealt the Hotshots their first back-to-back losses this conference.
Chris Banchero also shone in the win with 23 points and sparked a 13-3 run in the fourth quarter that gave Meralco the lead for good.
Adrian Wong knotted the score at 82-82 with a pair of three-pointers before Banchero sank his own long bomb to ignite the blast which left a 95-85 Bolts crater.
Magnolia answered with 7-0 spurt to make it a one-possession game, 92-95, but that was the closest the Hotshots got as Chris Newsome and Bishop scored on consecutive possessions to secure the win.
“This is like a turning point for both teams, at this point,” said Meralco head coach Norman Black.
“We just thought this was a very pivotal game for us in this series, and if we could win the game, it gives us a much better chance of making it to the championship.”
Newsome netted 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, while Allein Maliksi and Bong Quinto tallied 10 points apiece in the win.
Unloading 7 points in the fourth quarter alone, Newsome doused cold water on the Hotshots’ last-chance comeback with a layup off a nifty spin move to push the Bolts’ lead to 97-92.
Bishop then effectively put the nail in the coffin by stealing the ball from Paul Lee and canning a pair of free throws with only 22 seconds remaining.
Import Mike Harris posted 24 points and 17 rebounds to pace Magnolia, which is on the brink of getting the boot despite a sterling campaign that saw it lose just two of its first 12 games.
Mark Barroca (15), Ian Sangalang (14), and Jio Jalalon (13) all scored in twin digits, but the Hotshots badly missed the usual production of Calvin Abueva and Paul Lee, who combined for only 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting.
Meralco 101 – Bishop 27, Banchero 23, Newsome 16, Quinto 10, Maliksi 10, Almazan 6, Hodge 4, Baclao 3, Black 2, Belo 0, Caram 0.
Magnolia 95 – Harris 24, Barroca 15, Sangalang 14, Jalalon 13, Abueva 8, Wong 7, Dela Rosa 7, Lee 5, Reavis 2.
Quarters: 24-19, 46-50, 76-72, 101-95.