Entering the second half with a small lead, the Purefoods Star Hotshots surged to a strong third period en route to a 96-85 win over the Meralco Bolts to grab the first spot in the ongoing Commissioner’s Cup, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
PJ Simon started the game with a triple followed by back-to-back baskets inside by Denzel Bowles that gave Purefoods early separation against the Bolts. Despite the frontcourt of Josh Davis and Reynel Hugnatan doing their part early in the glass, the perimeter attempts had a hard time finding the bottom of the net for Meralco. Jumpers from James Yap and Bowles extended the lead to eight, 17-9, which triggered a change in a lineup of the Meralco five in the floor as the subs came in.
Gary David struggled to make his shot early but he managed to sink a basket, and together with Jared Dillinger’s offense, provided instant offense for the Bolts’ comeback hopes. The second period showcased a Gary David-James Yap show, wherein the two shooting guards made noise offensively, with their exchange of jump shots notwithstanding the defense applied to them.
Marc Pingris extended the lead and reinstalled an eight-point gap in the second period, but David started to wax hot including a layup and a jumper. Yap responded with a buzzer-beating triple, just before the alarm of the first-half buzzer.
Simon and Yap began the second half with mid-ranged jumpers to extend their lead. From that point, shots started to fall for Purefoods with Bowles attacking relentlessly despite having multiple defenders on him. Rafi Reavis also scored on his first two buckets during the stretch that made it a double-digit lead for Purefoods. Unfortunately for Meralco, they settled for perimeter shots that went wide with the Hotshots trapping defense coming into play.
Down by double digits, a perfectly executed give-and-go play between David and Danny Ildefonso started Meralco’s last hope to claw back in the ball game during the fourth. Meralco’s suffocating defense on Bowles forced the import to turnovers, giving the Bolts multiple chances for fast break attempts. Meralco managed to slice the deficit down to six with a minute to play, but Bowles shot a long two pointer to halt the Bolts’ rally. In the succeeding play, Josh Davis missed on two freethrows while Alex Mallari sealed the victory with his own charity baskets.
Davis had 31 points, 12 rebounds and four steals with the win while Gary David once again played a stellar outing off the bench with 22 points including three shots from downtown.
Purefoods improved to a league-leading 8-3 record and are now winners of four straight games. On the other hand, Meralco drops to 6-4, tied with NLEX.
Purefoods (96) – Bowles 37, Simon 15, Yap 15, Mallari 7, Barroca 7, Maliksi 5, Reavis 4, Pingris 4, Devance 2, Taha 0, Melton 0,
Meralco (85) – Davis 31, David 27, Dillinger 10, Anthony 7, Cortez 4, Hugnatan 4, Macapagal 2, Reyes 0, Wilson 0, Ildefonso 0, Caram 0, Ferriols 0.
Quarters: 29-21, 50-45, 78-67, 96-85
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