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Meralco nips San Miguel to live another day and force winner-take-all match

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Notwithstanding the twice-to-beat disadvantage prior to this game, the Meralco Bolts scored the game’s last seven points to keep their tournament alive with a 106-99 win over the second-seed San Miguel Beermen on Saturday at Araneta.

The Beermen went loose in the opening quarter and jumped to a 10-2 lead capped by three pointers from Arizona Reid and Arwind Santos. The hot start propelled SMB to build a double-digit lead which they had for majority of the first quarter while the Bolts’ offense was carried by inside points as their perimeter jumpers went wide early. Meralco only hit one out of six attempts from downtown in the period as the Beermen cruised to a dozen point lead after 12 minutes of action.

Off the bench, Jarred Dillinger contributed with three straight jumpers in the first minutes of the second period while Sean Anthony drilled in a jumper to cap a 16-3 spurt and slice SMB’s lead down to 3 at 31-28. Afterwards, the game got close and intensely-played with all the offensive exchanges by both sides. There were five lead changes and three deadlocks in the last seven minutes of the quarter but Meralco played it better than the way they showed up in the first quarter. They used a 34-21 quarter to take the lead by a point heading into the locker rooms.

The slim lead was maintained by the Bolts but SMB took it for a brief moment a couple of times in the third quarter. Despite Marcio Lassiter and JuneMar Fajardo providing the baskets from the perimeter and inside, a balanced scoring output was put up by the Bolts with multiple players contributing. With the score tied at 70 with over four minutes to play in the third, Meralco unleashed a 13-5 run and eventually end the quarter on top against SMB who was struggling with their perimeter shots.

Meralco went wire-to-wire in terms of maintaining the lead they got in the fourth period as a good stretch of points gave them a 99-90 lead with half of the quarter passing by. Kelly Nabong, Andre Emmett and Mike Cortez were responsible for providing the distance against SMB who kept on shooting from distance and blanking most of it. However, the second-seed Beermen fought back with a 9-0 run and tie the game including five crucial free-throws made. Fortunately for Meralco, they forced SMB to be scoreless in the game’s last 3:10 and score seven points including a big trifecta by Reynel Hugnatan to shatter the deadlock.

Meralco dominated the points in the paint battle, 50-36 and committed less turnovers, 9-16. They also shot better with 51.9% compared to SMB’s 45%.

Emmett tallied 28 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. Dillinger added 21 markers on an efficient 8-of-10 shooting and four triples. Fajardo also had a good outing with 30 points in just 12 shots from the inside.

The winner-take-all game will be played on Monday, 7pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. The winner of the game will face the waiting Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the semifinals.

The scores:

Meralco (106) – Emmett 28, Dillinger 21, Nabong 15, Anthony 9, Hugnatan 9, David 9, Hodge 6, Cortez 4, Ildefonso 0, Ferriols 0

San Miguel(99) – Fajardo 30, Reid 21, Lassiter 17, Tubid 15, Ross 6, Santos 5, Lutz 3, Cabagnot 2, Reyes 0, Espinas 0

Quarterscores: 16-28, 50-49, 83-78, 106-99

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