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Meralco scores epic comeback win, hands Magnolia 1st defeat

Mac Belo continues to regain his touch for the Bolts. PBA Images
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Forty-six minutes into both teams' Wednesday night game, many PBA fans conceded to the possibility of Magnolia manhandling Meralco to stay on top of the Philippine Cup standings.

In a blink of an eye, however, the Bolts stole the win.

Meralco came back from a double-digit deficit at the two-minute warning and walked away with a 95-94 win over Magnolia at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

Chris Newsome won the game for the Bolts on a buzzer-beating layup that capped the game-turning 15-1 run.

However, the Hotshots seemed to have imploded on their own.

Magnolia was up 93-80 entering the final two minutes before Mac Belo scored on a three-pointer that sparked Meralco's comeback.

Ian Sangalang appeared to have scored the dagger layup for the Hotshots, but fellow San Sebastian alumnus Calvin Abueva made a huge blunder after touching the net just as the ball went into the hoop and the referees ruled it as an offensive goaltending.

That set up an Alvin Pasaol triple with 1:07 remaining that cut the Bolts' deficit down to seven, 86-93.

Magnolia's endgame woes continued as Belo stole the ball off an inbound pass and converted a layup that further trimmed the gap to five with 1:05 to go.

Abueva tried to atone for his crucial turnover, but he just made 1-for-2 from the free-throw line, and Belo, off Abueva's sixth foul, made both his charities to move Meralco to within four, 90-94, with 42 seconds left.

Jio Jalalon then lost the ball off the Bolts' pressure defense leading to a three-pointer from Newsome that cut the lead further to one with 28.3 seconds left.

Mark Barroca thought he finally saved the day for the Hotshots after converting a right corner three, but upon review, Barroca failed to beat the shotclock, and the Bolts had 4.3 seconds to steal the win, which Newsome did so by quickly getting past the one-on-one coverage.

Belo led Meralco, which jumped to second place behind TNT at 5-1, with 22 points, six rebounds, and one steal.

Cliff Hodge added 18 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, and one steal off the bench.

The Bolts can regain the top spot if they beat the still undefeated Tropang Giga on Friday night at the said arena.

Paul Lee led Magnolia, which dropped to third place at 4-1, with 21 points, three rebounds, three assists, and one steal.

Abueva added 18 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and three blocks, but he only tallied five points and four rebounds in the second half.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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