The Meralco Bolts and Magnolia Hotshots did not have it easy but both teams booked tickets to the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals all the same after beating their respective rivals in tight matches at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena, Sunday evening, July 31.
The Bolts, who blew off their 21-point advantage in the third period, hung on until the end to survive a thrilling 106-104 win over perennial tormentor Ginebra Gin Kings in their best-of-three playoff showdown. Thus, putting a stop to their chase for a playoff victory over the Gin Kings.
Yet, the Bolts will have to hurdle a more formidable mountain in top seed San Miguel Beermen in their best-of-seven semis that kicks off on Wednesday, August 3, at the Big Dome.
Meralco Chris Newsome
Chris Newsome, who erupted with a triple-double performance for the Bolts (21 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists), said, “We just proved that if you’re relentless if you keep the fight, great things will happen.”
He also said that they enjoyed the challenge of playing Ginebra, which was something they all looked forward to, and glad that they pulled through, at last, ending their string of six playoff losses to coach Tim Cone’s Gin Kings.
“And it’s nice to have the monkey off our back,” Newsome added.
The Gin Kings, with their never-say-die attitude, snatched a one-point lead in the final minute of the game behind LA Tenorio’s huge trey.
Meralco fire power
But Meralco’s Raymond Almazan answered with a triple of his own to secure the Bolts long anticipated playoff victory over Ginebra.
Aaron Black chipped in 17 points while Cliff Hodge added 13 baskets on top of his 18 rebounds, and Allein Maliksi had 12 markers for the Bolts who all went all out to carry out their mission. Their teammates Bong Quinto and Alvin Pasaol each made identical 11 points.
Ginebra, meanwhile, leaned on starters Scottie Thompson, Christian Standhardinger, and Japeth Aguilar who canned 26, 23, and 21 markers, respectively as Stanley Pringle and LA Tenorio each finished with 12.
Meanwhile, Magnolia eked out a 112-106 overtime victory over NLEX as Jio Jalalon sparked the Hotshots’ surge in the extension, firing seven of his 16 markers.
Ian Sangalang delivered a double-double (24 points and 11 boards) while Calvin Abueva and Mark Barroca secured the much-needed victory from the stripe. Abueva and Barroca finished with 13 and 14 points, respectively. Paul Lee also came out big with 21 baskets.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero praised his players for overcoming the Road Warriors who put up a gallant stand. “It boils down to this game, ‘yung journey namin this conference. I’m very proud kasi hindi kami nag-give up (It boils down to this game, our journey in this conference. I’m very proud that we didn’t give up). That means the mental toughness, the grit, and determination of the players,” he said.
He had so much respect for NLEX coach Yeng Guiao and his team for giving them “ a very, very good fight.”
The Hotshots will next collide with defending champion TNT Tropang Giga in a separate best-of-seven semis.
Meralco 106 – Newsome 21, Black 17, Hodge 13, Maliksi 12, Quinto 11, Almazan 11, Pasaol 11, Banchero 4, Jose 4, Pascual 2.
Barangay Ginebra 104 – Thompson 26, Standhardinger 23, J. Aguilar 21, Tenorio 12, Pringle 12, Pinto 6, Chan 4, Caperal 0, Onwubere 0, Mariano 0.
Quarters: 24-18; 55-42; 85-76; 106-104.
Magnolia 112 – Sangalang 24, Lee 21, Jalalon 16, Barroca 14, Abueva 13, Dela Rosa 12, Corpuz 6, Dionisio 4, Wong 2.
NLEX 106 – Oftana 32, Trollano 22, Alas 17, Chua 10, Semerad 8, Quinahan 8, Rosales 5, Varilla 2, Nieto 2, Soyud 0.
Quarters: 26-30, 51-54, 79-78, 97-97, 112-106 (OT).