By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Meralco Bolts lived to fight another day after taking Game Five of their best-of-seven Philippine Cup semifinal series over the Magnolia Pambansang Manok Hotshots, 102-98, on Wednesday to narrow their deficit, 2-3.
With their backs against the wall, the Bolts dug deep against a determined push by the Hotshots to close out things to bag the win at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga, and keep their title hopes alive.
The contest got off to a competitive start, with the teams having their moments to make runs.
Magnolia though would have the upper hand at the break, holding a slim two-point cushion, 47-45.
In the third quarter, Meralco came out with added fire, led by John Pinto and Chris Newsome, crowding Magnolia and eventually took the lead, 65-63, with 2:19 to go in the frame.
But the Hotshots regained their footing after, outscoring the Bolts, 8-4, thereafter to take a 71-69 advantage heading into the fourth canto.
With the contest still anybody’s ball game, the team jostled to take early control in the opening of the payoff quarter.
The Meralco cause was dealt a blow by the seven-minute mark when Mr. Newsome was called for his sixth and final foul, rendering him unavailable the rest of the way.
The Bolts, though, continued to fight it out, racing to a 93-90 lead with 3:28 left to play.
Magnolia tried to rally back but still found itself trailing, 99-96, with 40 seconds remaining.
It got a chance to level the count after Calvin Abueva got a steal at the 34-second mark but failed to capitalize on it.
Split free throws by Raymond Almazan with 10 seconds to go, extended the Bolts’ lead to four points, 100-96.
The Hotshots sued for time after. In the ensuing play, Magnolia went to Mr. Abueva, who connected on a deuce off an alley-oop play with eight ticks left to cut their deficit, 100-98.
Mr. Almazan was fouled anew after, but he made sure to make all of his freebies to create further distance from which the Hotshots could not recover from.
Allein Maliksi led the Bolts in the gutsy victory, finishing with 29 points, followed by Messrs. Pinto and Newsome with 24 and 23 points, respectively.
For Magnolia, it was Mark Barroca who showed the way with 25 points. Mr. Abueva had 19. Game Six of the series is set for Friday, Oct. 15.
END OF AN ERA
Meanwhile, a changing of the guards took place at the Alaska Aces camp after they traded veteran point guard JVee Casio to the Blackwater Bossing.
In a deal that got the approval of the league on Tuesday, the Aces sent the 10-year pro Casio to the Bossing along with sophomore Barkley Ebona in exchange for guard Mike Tolomia and Blackwater’s 2022 second-round draft pick.
It was an end of era for Alaska as Mr. Casio, 35, was the last member of the team’s 2013 Commissioner’s Cup champion squad.
With the Bossing, Mr. Casio is expected to provide leadership and experience to a “rebuilding” team under returning coach Ariel Vanguardia.
Blackwater, too, is getting a workhorse in Mr. Ebona, a first-round pick in the 2019 rookie draft.
Mr. Tolomia, 28, meanwhile, brings explosiveness and youth to the Alaska backcourt.