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Abueva scores game-winner as Phoenix upends Meralco in OT

Justin Chua played his best game yet in the PBA. PBA Media Group
By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--In just the third game of the new Philippine Basketball Association season, an extra five-minute period was needed.

And even in the overtime session, a wild finish ensued.

In the end, however, Phoenix escaped with the win.

The Fuel Masters survived a huge collapse and tripped the Meralco Bolts, 93-92, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday night.

Phoenix prevailed despite blowing an early double-digit lead as Calvin Abueva saved the day with the game-winning putback with 4.3 seconds left.

The Fuel Masters opened a 31-13 lead in the second quarter and were seemed on their way to mauling the Bolts.

Meralco, however, slowly recovered and was within seven, 34-41, at halftime.

Phoenix reopened some cushion by stretching its lead back to 12, 50-38, with 9:29 to play in the third period.

But Meralco never wavered and forced overtime on a Ranidel De Ocampo followup with 33 seconds remaining in regulation, even leading at some points of the fourth period.

A second overtime seemed imminent as both teams were tied, 89-all, with 45 seconds remaining.

But Matt Wright followed up on an Alex Mallari airball to put the Fuel Masters back up, 91-89, with 20.3 seconds remaining.

Chris Newsome responded with a booming triple to give the Bolts a 92-91 advantage with 11 seconds to go.

Justin Chua missed a tough layup against Meralco's defense, but Abueva grabbed the offensive rebound and placed the ball back in.

With no timeout left, Meralco was forced to inbound the ball at its own baseline, and Reynel Hugnatan failed to pass the ball to Newsome in time for a long triple.

Chua finished with a career-high 24 points with six rebounds for Phoenix, which avenged its tough Governors' Cup quarterfinal loss to Meralco late last year.

Wright added 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and one block.

Alex Mallari put up 11 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, while Dave Marcelo chipped in six points and three rebounds in their debut with Phoenix.

Nico Salva posted his own career-high of 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, going 4-for-4 from long range, with six rebounds and one steal for Meralco.

Newsome chipped in 20 markers, five boards, and three dimes.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno