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Meralco withstands Abueva-less Alaska's last stand for solo lead


By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--Meralco nearly saw their late double-digit lead vanish but held on to a 100-96 win against Alaska in the nightcap of the PBA Governors' Cup doubleheader at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday.

The Bolts actually fought back from an early double-digit deficit only to see the Aces coming close to crawling back from their own double-digit deficit with less than two minutes left in the game.

Alaska, which opted to give Calvin Abueva a day off, took a 28-18 lead late in the first quarter with LaDontae Henton taking charge.

But a 12-0 Meralco run spearheaded by Allen Durham in the second quarter gave them the lead, 36-34, and the match became tight from there.

The Bolts had their first try of pulling away after opening a 59-50 advantage in the third quarter, but the Aces responded with a 12-4 run to cut the lead to one, 63-62, later in the quarter. The Bolts reopened the nine-point cushion, 73-64, after the period.

Alaska kept in step with Meralco early in the fourth before the latter opened a 92-80 edge with 3:44 left.

The Aces then went on a 5-1 mini run to trim the gap to eight, 93-85, before Reynel Hugnatan dropped a crucial triple with 1:54 to go to put the Bolts up, 96-85.

Alaska, however, retaliated with a 9-1 run highlighted by triples from Henton and Jvee Casio to pull them to within three, 94-97, with 56 seconds left.

Durham appeared to have weathered the storm with a layup of his own, but Vic Manuel expressed his return from a calf injury with a clutch basket to keep the margin at three with 27.9 seconds remaining.

Durham muffed an easy layup in the next play, giving the Aces a chance to tie the game with 11.7 seconds on the clock.

But Henton missed his three-point try, and Chris Newsome, who grabbed the crucial board, gave the Bolts breathing room with a split from the line with 5.4 seconds to go, which eventually became the dagger.

Durham had 36 points on 13-of-18 shooting, 15 rebounds, six assists, three steals, and one block for Meralco, which is now the solo leader in the team standings with a 2-0 record.

Henton had 33 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and two steals of his own for Alaska, which aims to end the season with a championship after two consecutive heartbreaking runner-up finishes.

In his return from the injury that sidelined him throughout the Commissioner's Cup playoffs, Manuel tallied six points and five rebounds off the bench for the Aces.

Abueva, who became part of Gilas' training pool for the FIBA OQT, is expected to suit up in Alaska's colossal clash with Ginebra next Sunday at the said venue.

Box Scores:

Meralco 100-Durham 36, Newsome 19, Dillinger 13, Hugnatan 11, Hodge 5, Caram 4, Nabong 4, Alapag 3, Buenafe 3, Uyloan 2, Jamshidi 0

Alaska 96-Henton 33, Jazul 13, Racal 11, Casio 8, Banchero 8, Manuel 6, Dela Rosa 4, Hontiveros 4, Thoss 3, Baclao 2, Exciminiano 2, Dela Cruz 2, Menk 0

Quarterscores: 20-28, 48-46, 73-64, 100-96

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