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Meralco denies SMB of PBA PH Cup elims sweep with crucial win

Cliff Hodge played vintage basketball again for Meralco. PBA Images
By Ivan Saldajeno

BATANGAS CITY--In what was deemed the "11th step" toward the PBA Philippine Cup elimination round sweep, San Miguel had a misstep here.

Meralco stopped SMB from achieving its goal of going 11-0 entering the quarterfinals by beating them, 95-92, on Saturday night at the Batangas City Sports Coliseum.

A third-quarter blast was enough for the Bolts as the Beermen's comeback in the fourth quarter fell short.

Up eight, 52-44, at the half, Meralco went for 30 points in the third period to open an 82-66 cushion entering the fourth.

SMB, though, fought back and came to within three with 1:07 left.

They even had a chance to close the gap after Chris Newsome fouled CJ Perez while trying to stop the transition play.

However, Perez, a steady free throw shooter, missed two charities with 37 seconds left, and Cliff Hodge secured the rebound.

Allein Maliksi failed to close out the game as he missed a mid-range jumper, giving the Beermen 2.6 seconds to force overtime.

Perez received the inbound pass, but he missed a long triple as time ran out.

Maliksi led Meralco, which formally clinched a quarterfinal seat after moving up to 6-5, with 22 points, three rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block.

Hodge added 20 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks.

June Mar Fajardo put up 23 points, 19 rebounds, and four assists for SMB, which failed to become the first team since 2014 to sweep the eliminations.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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