Allein Maliksi starred as Meralco stunned Magnolia, 102-98, to remain alive in the 2021 Honda PBA Philippine Cup semifinals, Wednesday evening at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The 34-year-old finished with 29 points, including nine in the fourth quarter that saw him nail six straight points to give the Bolts a 96-90 edge with 2:05 left — a lead they hung onto en route to the campaign-saving win.
That was the 10-year veteran’s playoff-career high performance, where he drilled seven three-pointers in 37 minutes of action.
“I thought Allein did a great job of hitting his outside shots and opening up their defense,” said head coach Norman Black of his gunner.
It wasn’t just Maliksi who shone brightly as heroes were aplenty in the triumph. Nards Pinto delivered a career-high showing with his 24 points on a 52-percent clip. He also dished out five assists in over 38 minutes.
Then there was also lead guard Chris Newsome with his 23 points, six dimes, and five rebounds, although he wasn’t able to finish the game after being whistled for his sixth foul with 7:10 left in the game.
“Well, I had to play them a lot of minutes tonight. When it’s a situation where it’s do-or-die, that’s normally what happens. They knew that going into the game. Of course, we needed them to deliver which they also did,” lauded Black.
The returning Raymond Almazan also made his presence felt. After missing the last two games due to an ankle injury, the 6-foot-8 center logged in over 31 minutes and collected a team-high 10 rebounds and nine points.
His most important contribution, though, was in the endgame. As the Hotshots threatened and cut the six-point gap to just two following a Calvin Abueva bucket off an inbound play, Almazan was there to ice the game.
After only making one shot in a previous trip to the foul line, the 32-year-old made up for that by calmly sinking both of his freebies with 7.4 seconds left, giving the Bolts the four-point lead and the eventual victory.
“It was a very gutsy performance on the part of my players,” Black said. “We fought the Magnolia team on a good night. I thought they played well tonight, they really played to go out and shut us off already and to eliminate us.
“But, we stood our ground,” added the champion mentor. “We made some big shots down the stretch which was very, very important. We kept our composure, and we gave ourselves a chance to come back in this series.”
Meanwhile, Mark Barroca had 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the floor to lead Magnolia, who squandered an 11-point lead in the first quarter.
Abueva produced 19 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Ian Sangalang finished with yet another double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds, as Paul Lee supplied 13 points and five assists.
Game Six is on Friday at 6:00 p.m.
Meralco 102 – Maliksi 29, Pinto 24, Newsome 23, Almazan 9, Hugnatan 6, Hodge 4, Belo 4, Quinto 3, Jackson 0, Caram 0, Pasaol 0.
Magnolia 98 – Barroca 25, Abueva 19, Sangalang 15, Lee 13, Jalalon 12, Ahanmisi 8, Reavis 6, Dela Rosa 0, Corpuz 0, Dionisio 0.
Quarterscores: 23-33, 45-47, 69-71, 102-98.