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Meralco survives Bolick’s 48-point onslaught to take PBA quarters opener

Robert Bolick submitted one of the best individual performances in the PBA in a long while, but that was not enough to bring NLEX the victory.

The star guard saw his 48-point effort go for naught as the Road Warriors fell to the more experienced Meralco, 97-93, in Game 1 of their Season 48 Philippine Cup best-of-3 quarterfinal series, Friday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

Bolick proved tough to contain when he already had 40 of his new career-high in the first three quarters, half of which he made in the first alone as he helped set the tone in their favor that saw post a 49-37 lead in the ensuing frame.

But the Bolts, equipped with the spunk of a perennial contender, buckled down to work in the deciding chapter behind the usual suspects headed by Allein Maliksi, plus the ever-reliable Anjo Caram, to complete the comeback.

“Maganda ‘yung nilaro niya. You have to give it to Robert,” offered Meralco head coach Luigi Trillo post-game. “It really takes five guys playing defense on him. That’s Robert Bolick for you. First half pa lang umarangkada na siya.”

Maliksi led Meralco with 22 points, including seven in the final period as he helped defend Bolick and also deliver the big blows down the stretch.

Bolick actually put his Road Warriors ahead, 93-92, with 1:05 remaining in the game but that proved to be their last taste of the lead as Maliksi put Meralco up for good behind his free throws, 94-93, with 45.7 seconds to go.

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Chris Newsome pushed their lead to 95-93 following a split from the line shortly after, before Caram came up with a crucial stop by forcing Bolick to a turnover to give the possession back to the Bolts with 13.1 seconds to spare.

Maliksi would go on to seal the deal with another perfect trip to the charity stripe with 9.6 seconds left to play as Meralco took the 1-0 lead and, more importantly, inched closer to its third semis trip since the 2022 Philippine Cup.

Trillo and Co., however, refuse to look too far ahead as they brace for an NLEX retaliation in Game 2 on Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

“As a coaching staff, as a team, we’re not pleased with the way we played him. For Game Two, it’s gonna be harder. It’s gonna be harder when a team’s back is against the wall,” the champion bench tactician said.

“We’re capable of closing it out. But we really respect Robert Bolick and we have a lot of things to fix. We’re not gonna go to the semis if we play defense like that,” added Trillo. “You have to give credit to him.”

Raymond Almazan had 15 points and six rebounds in the win. Anjo Caram supplied 14 points as he fired a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc.

Newsome made 12 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Chris Banchero scored 12 as well, while Bong Quinto added 11 for Meralco.

NLEX surely envied that kind of collective effort. Big man Michael Miranda was the only other double-digit scorer with 14 points in the deflating loss.

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The Scores:

Meralco 97 Maliksi 22, Almazan 15, Caram 14, Newsome 12, Banchero 12, Quinto 11, Bates 4, Torres 3, Hodge 2, Pasaol 2, Dario 0.

NLEX 93 – Bolick 48, Miranda 14, Rodger 6, Herndon 6, Nieto 5, Semerad 5, Fajardo 4, Marcelo 2, Valdez 2, Amer 1, Anthony 0.

Quarterscores: 23-28, 44-54, 73-75, 97-93.

Written By

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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