Magnolia escapes tough grind vs. Meralco to seal QF bonus

Mike Harris put up a 30-20 for the Hotshots. PBA Images
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Magnolia secured a twice-to-beat advantage in the PBA Governors' Cup quarterfinals after subduing Meralco, 88-85, in a crucial elimination round battle on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

With potentially the top seed in the playoffs on the line, the Hotshots bounced back from lethargic first quarter but still needed to repulse the Bolts defensively in the endgame to seal the victory.

Down 11-23 at the end of the first quarter, Magnolia slowly recovered and went on a 32-point third quarter blast to take a 68-66 lead entering the fourth quarter.

The team even tried to pull away late, upping its lead to seven, 83-76, with three minutes remaining.

But Meralco scored six unanswered points, a three-point play from Tony Bishop and a triple from Allein Maliksi, to cut the gap down to one, 83-82, with 1:51 remaining.

Mike Harris responded with a three-point play of his own to bring the Hotshots up four again, 86-82, with 1:28 to go.

Maliksi scored another three-pointer that brought the Bolts back within one, but Harris responded with a quick layup that not just put the Hotshots ahead by three again with 31 seconds remaining but also gave them the 2-for-1 offensive option.

Harris then blocked Chris Newsome's layup attempt, while Mark Barroca's lockdown defense forced Maliksi for a tough three-point attempt that went airball before time expired.

Harris finished with 30 points, 22 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and two blocks for Magnolia, which moved up to 8-1 in the standings.

The team can seal the top seed entering the quarterfinals if it beats Alaska on Sunday night.

Paul Lee added 16 points, four rebounds, two assists, and three steals.

Bishop still led the scorers for the now 6-3 Meralco squad, but he was held to only 19 points, although he too had 14 rebounds, four assists, and one steal.

Since going 5-0 to start the conference, the team has now lost three of its last four games, dropping its last two.

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