Timely triples from Allein Maliksi and Aaron Black sealed Meralco a 2022 PBA Philippine Cup playoffs spot, escaping no. 1 San Miguel, 89-86, Sunday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
Maliksi drained back-to-back triples to give the Bolts the lead before Black buried another trey to go up, 88-83, with 50 seconds left.
CJ Perez was able to pull the Beermen back within two after a three-pointer of his own with 40 ticks to go, 86-88.
In the ensuing play, Maliksi was sent to the charity stripe where he split his freebies to give San Miguel one more chance to send the game to overtime with six seconds remaining. However, Simon Enciso flunked his attempt to give Meralco the win and the quarterfinals spot.
“We have guys who we believe in and you’re looking at the quality of shots, the shots are good,” said Meralco assistant coach Luigi Trillo on Maliksi’s crucial baskets.
“As long as we’re doing the right things on offense and the decision-making is good, it will fall freely. I’ve known Allein since the D-League and credit to guys setting him up,” he continued.
The Bolts hiked their record to 6-4, good for fifth, with the winless Terrafirma the only remaining elimination game for them on Thursday at 5:15 pm.
Maliksi finished with a team-high 18 points built on four triples to go with eight rebounds and two steals.
Chris Newsome had 16 points while Black ended with 15 points, seven rebounds, and five assists.
The Beermen got their six-game winning streak snapped and will enter the quarterfinals at 9-2.
June Mar Fajardo led San Miguel anew with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Perez chipped in 14 points, nine rebounds, and six assists.
In his second game back after missing six games, Vic Manuel earned 12 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes.
Ato Agustin called the shots for San Miguel as both head coach Leo Austria and lead assistant Jorge Gallent were put in the league’s health and safety protocols.
Meralco 89 – Maliksi 18, Newsome 16, Black 15, Hodge 9, Almazan 8, Banchero 7, Jose 6, Quinto 4, Hugnatan 4, Pascual 2, Baclao 0
San Miguel 86 – Fajardo 21, Perez 14, Lassiter 12, Manuel 12, Enciso 11, Tautuaa 9, Pessumal 5, Zamar 2, Canete 0, Faundo 0
Quarterscores: 19-26, 40-37, 70-67, 89-86
The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.