Meralco clinches 2nd seed after beating NLEX

Allein Maliksi led the way for the Bolts. PBA Images
By Carl Santiago

MANILA--The Meralco Bolts assured their hold of the number two spot after drubbing the NLEX Road Warriors, 104-101, in the peuniltimate day of the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga on Wednesday.

Mac Belo set the tone early for the Bolts with back-to back-threes that helped give them an early 11-point lead, 18-7, with 7:07 left in the first quarter.

But Calvin Oftana scored back-to-back baskets that capped a 7-0 Road Warriors run that cut their deficit to five.

Late in the first period, Alvin Pasaol boosted his offensive game with 10 straight points that capped a strong ending for the Bolts as they led by 10, 30-20, at the end of the quarter.

JR Quinahan and Will McAloney guided the Road Warriors' fight back as they helped cut their deficit to two, 40-42 with 6:14 left before.

But behind Belo and Allein Maliksi, Meralco restored order and extended its lead to 11, 65-54, by halftime even as the team kept control of the game for most of the second half.

NLEX, however, launched a 13-0 run that drew the team to within six, 95-101, with 1:40 remaining.

Bong Quinto hit a jumper that stretched the Bolts' lead to eight, 103-95, but Oftana hit another three and the lead is down to five with 26 seconds remaining.

John Pinto kept the door open for a Road Warriors comeback as he missed two free throws off a Kevin Alas foul.

Oftana then hit a left wing three that trimmed the gap to just two, 103-101 with 2.4 seconds to go.

Almazan thought he still kept the game close to call as he only hit 1-of-2 in his trip to the free throw line, but Quinto tapped the ball out off the missed charity as time expired as Meralco survived a late scare.

Maliksi dropped 22 points to lead Meralco, which moved up to 7-3.

Meralco's next game is on Thursday against Ginebra.

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