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Tiebreaker Times

Basketball

Meralco performs heist to eliminate NLEX, moves to semis


Down nine with just five minutes to go in the game, Chris Newsome provided the much-needed energy for the Meralco Bolts to turn back the NLEX Road Warriors and move to the next round, 104-97, Monday evening at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

The Road Warriors were able to jump on their opponents in the early-goings of the game for an early 15-4 lead behind the hot-shooting of Al Thornton and Jonas Villanueva. The shots were not falling for the Bolts and were only carried by the energy of Reynel Hugnatan to keep the game from turning into an immediate blowout. The veteran scored six of the last eight points of the Bolts in the opening frame to cut the NLEX lead to just three, 22-19, to close out the quarter.

“It was a hard fought game. We had a very difficult time with their post defense once again,” Meralco head coach Norman Black shared. “We were very limited and just tried to use their defense against them.”

Garvo Lanete gained the touch for NLEX in the second frame in scoring eight straight points to extend his team’s lead to double-digits once more. In addition, Asi Taulava and Sean Anthony were able to score with ease to 12, 41-29, with three minutes left in the half. Triples by Jimmy Alapag and Jared Dillinger and a basket by Arinze Onuaku with six seconds left cut the deficit to just five, 43-38, to enter the break.

The Meralco Bolts went out of the locker room with renewed vigor as they were able to knot things up at 48-all in a 10-5 rally. Buckets by Dillinger sparked the run and was capped by a huge three-point play by Hodge. The Bolts continued to push afterwards in gaining a six-point lead midway through the third canto. However, a costly foul by Hugnatan on a three-point attempt by Lanete halted the momentum they gained. Baskets by Thornton and Taulava paced NLEX while a buzzer-beating triple by Simon Enciso closed out the quarter to give NLEX a solitary point lead, 71-70.

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NLEX tried to breakaway behind triples by Lanete and Enciso to give the Road Warriors a nine-point lead, 87-78, with five minutes remaining. Wanting to end the series, the Bolts forced their opponents to jumpshots while on the other end Dillinger and Newsome were able to score the big baskets to tie the game t 87-all with 3:47 left. Lanete was able to answer right back with a long three, his fourth of the game, to stop the bleeding. However, the momentum gained by Meralco proved to be too much as they went on another 6-0 rally for a 96-92 lead. Taulava and Anthony, with their playoff lives on the line, were able to cut the lead to just two but free throws by Newsome, Baser Amer, and Alapag dimmed the lights for NLEX’s campaign.

“In the second half, we just became very persistent,” Black said after the game. “I can’t pinpoint any one player who stood out tonight.”

“It was really a team effort today.”

Five players scored in double-digits for Meralco led by Hugnatan’s 20 markers. Onuaku notched a double-double with 13 points and 11 boards while Hodge added 19 markers and nine boards. Dillinger and Newsome chipped-in 18 and 15 points respectively.

Al Thornton was the high-point man for the game with 38 markers and 14 boards. Garvo Lanete added a career-high 21 points. However, even in shooting at a better clip from the field, the Road Warriors were greatly outrebounded, 50-37. Moreover, Meralco attempted 21 more free throws that helped lead to their demise.

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The Meralco Bolts will await the winner of the Alaska Aces-Tropang TNT series in the next round.

The Scores:

Meralco (104) – Hugnatan 20, Hodge 19, Dillinger 18, Newsome 15, Onuaku 13, Amer 9, Alapag 8, Caram 2, Buenafe Ro. 0, Buenafe Ry. 0, Ferriols 0.

NLEX (97) – Thornton 38, Lanete 21, Enciso 9, Borboran 8, Taulava 8, Anthony 6, Alas 4, Villanueva J. 2, Villanueva E. 0.

Quarterscores: 19-22, 38-43, 70-71, 104-97.

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