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Taha to the rescue, lifts Purefoods over Meralco for third straight win

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Powered by a late fourth quarter explosion from Yousef Taha, the Purefoods Star Hotshots take their
third straight win the PBA Philippine Cup, 77-74, Sunday night in Biñan, Laguna.

The third year journeyman from Mapua Institute of Technology scored 14 points, six late in the pivotal
fourth quarter. He also had 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks.

The Bolts and the Hotshots figured in a trade of baskets in the first quarter, the lead changing hands
almost every minute. The quarter ended with Purefoods holding on to the lead, 18-16.
Led by back-up gunners Allein Maliksi and Mark Barroca, the Hotshots extended the lead to as
many as nine points, 32-23, with close to four minutes left in the second quarter. Tempers flared after
Meralco’s Cliff Hodge and Purefood’s Marc Pingris figured in a shouting match after Hodge accused
Pingris of hacking him while battling for a rebound. Cooler heads kept the belligerents from
blowing off more steam, and Pingris was slapped with the Flagrant 1. Commotion broke anew a
minute later, after Meralco guard Simon Atkins and the Meralco coaching staff contested a three-
pointer from Purefoods’ James Yap, claiming it fell through the hoop after the shot clock had expired. Atkins
was slapped with a technical foul, and a successful Purefoods free-throw gave the Hotshots another
nine-point lead, 36-27. Another technical foul came less than a minute later, after Tim Cone was slapped
for complaining to the referees regarding a Meralco foul. Purefoods, however held
on to the lead at halftime, 40-33.

The Bolts returned to the court in sweet fashion to open the second half, going on an 8-0 rally that
saw back-to-back triples from Gary David and a lay-up from Jared Dillinger to steal the lead, 41-40, two
minutes into the third quarter. Meralco held Purefoods to only twelve points in the third,
outgunning the Hotshots to take a 59-52 lead to end the period.

Another heated shootout broke out in the fourth quarter, leading to numerous deadlocks and lead
changes throughout the period. With around five minutes left on the clock, the Hotshots found themselves
trailing by a mere point, 66-67, but Taha suddenly exploded for six straight points while
putting on well-timed defensive stops on the other end to bring Purefoods up by six, 72-67 entering the
final two minutes.

A basket from Joe Devance and a trey from Barroca gave Purefoods a 77-69 edge with only a
minute left to play, but Meralco proved to be undaunted. A David triple trimmed the lead
to five, 72-77 with 22.3 left on the clock, and a fastbreak lay-up off a turnover drilled in by Dillinger suddenly put the Bolts within striking distance, 74-77, with 10.2 left on the clock. Meralco got another lucky break in the next possession, forcing PJ Simon to turn the ball over before calling another timeout.

Dillinger managed to get in position for a triple with six seconds left on the clock, but the ball
bounced off the rim. The miss was corralled by Mark Macapagal, one of the Bolts’ most dangerous
gunners, but he could not get into position for the trey before time expired.

Purefoods improves to 4-3, while Meralco slides to 4-4, a slate shared with GlobalPort Batang Pier.

Photo courtesy of Nuki Sabio.

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