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PBA: Meralco denies Magnolia of clinching top seed with win in Iloilo thriller

Shonn Miller had a 30-20 in his PBA debut in Iloilo City. PBA Images
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Meralco derailed Magnolia's outright chance of clinching the top seed in the PBA Commissioner's Cup quarterfinals with an 85-80 win in their crucial Saturday night battle at the University of San Agustin Gym in Iloilo City.

The Bolts survived the Hotshots' comeback bids in the fourth quarter as they began their "killer stretch" on a winning note.

Meralco threatened to pull away early in the fourth as they began the period on a 16-3 run to take a 73-61 lead with six and a half minutes left.

Magnolia, however, crawled back and came to within one, 77-76, with 2:45 left.

The Purefoods franchise, though, blew its first chance to retake the lead as Iloilo native Anjo Caram picked Paul Lee's pass leading to a Shonn Miller's tip-in with 1:40 left for a 79-76 Meralco lead.

Chris Newsome then blocked Rome Dela Rosa's three-point attempt, and Cliff Hodge hit an elbow jumper to up the Bolts' lead to five, 81-76, with 1:03 remaining.

The Hotshots stayed alive in the game as Tyler Bey and Mark Barroca hit back-to-back baskets to cut the lead down to one, 81-80, with 51 seconds remaining.

However, Joseph Eriobu fouled Newsome while tightening his defense on him, and Newsome made two free throws to up the lead anew to three, 83-80, with 33.4 seconds left.

Meralco's defense then forced Aris Dionisio to take a three-point attempt that went over the backboard with 23.4 seconds left.

Newsome iced the game for the Bolts after making two more charities with 13.3 seconds on the clock.

Miller impressed in his PBA debut as Zach Lofton's replacement, finishing with 33 points, 22 rebounds, and four steals to lead Meralco, which moved up to 7-2.

Newsome added 17 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block.

Bey ended up with 23 points, 16 rebounds, one assist, one block, and three steals to lead Magnolia, which finished their elimination round campaign at 9-2.

The Hotshots could only hope that the Bolts lose at least one of their remaining two games against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Wednesday night and the Terrafirma Dyip on Friday night both at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City to seal the top seed.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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