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PBA: Banchero breaks out of slump as Meralco fends off Phoenix to stay in Top Four race

Meralco denied Phoenix Super LPG of an outright quarterfinal qualification, 92-86, to end its PBA Governors’ Cup elimination round campaign with a good shot at the Top Four, Sunday night at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.

The Bolts witnessed their 15-point lead become just six twice inside the last 52.6 seconds, but their stifling defense proved to be the difference as they prevented the opposition from coming any closer to securing the triumph.

“It was an interesting game mainly because Coach Jamike really threw everything at us tonight — 1-3-1, to 2-3, to switching zones, from man to zone, zone to man,” said head coach Norman Black as he battled his ex-deputy.

“We settled on what we can do against everything, no matter what he threw at us we were just running one or two things which really worked for us in the third and fourth quarter,” added the champion mentor.

KJ McDaniels led Meralco with 19 points and 16 rebounds along with a pair of assists, but it was his anchorage on defense that did wonders as he racked up four steals and five blocks — both game-highs.

“Communication was key for us,” he said. “That’s what we talked about at halftime, coming out with more intensity and communication and we did a great job of going to the shooters, switching out, rotating.”

Aaron Black made 18 points, Chris Banchero had his best game in a while with 13, while Cliff Hodge added 12 and nine boards as the other Bolts stepped up on a night main man Chris Newsome struggled to find the mark.

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Newsome went just 3-of-13 from the field yet still wound up with a full line of eight points, six rebounds, nine assists, a steal, and a block.

He would also come through with the most important play down the stretch, stripping the ball away from Javee Mocon and dished it right away for a wide-open Raymond Almazan on the other end to make it 92-84 with 40 ticks left.

That stop not only made up for the turnover committed by Black prior but ultimately enabled Meralco to finish with a 7-4 card.

A three-way tie could still happen among the teams behind current leaders TNT in San Miguel (7-2), Ginebra (6-3), and NLEX (7-3) but the Bolts are closely monitoring the Road Warriors, whom they beat 114-98 last Feb. 23.

“Our focus for this game was not to let this opportunity go by,” Black said. “We knew that if we lost this game, we’d probably end up playing either Talk N Text or San Miguel. We wanted to get this win tonight to give ourselves a chance.

“One, for the Top Four; and two, to avoid the top teams going into the next round. We were able to accomplish that. But we still have to wait and see what happens with San Miguel and NLEX. NLEX still controls its own fate.”

Du’Vaughn Maxwell, on the other hand, had 29 points and nine rebounds for Phoenix, who concluded its eliminations run with a 4-7.

The Fuel Masters will now wait for what happens to the 3-7 NorthPort, who is also facing the Tropang Giga. A Batang Pier loss would mean securing the no. 8 seed, otherwise a playoff for the last QF spot will be fought for.

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The Scores:

Meralco 92 – McDaniels 19, Black 18, Banchero 13, Hodge 12, Quinto 9, Newsome 8, Almazan 7, Caram 3, Pasaol 3, Jose 0.

Phoenix 86 – Maxwell 29, Serrano 20, Perkins 13, Tio 7, Jazul 6, Camacho 3, Muyang 2, Manganti 2, Mocon2, Garcia 2, Lalata 0, Alejandro 0.

Quarterscores: 23-22, 47-49, 73-68, 92-86.

The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.

Written By

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

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