By JONAS TERRADO
Meralco put defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in danger of missing the quarterfinals after a posting a 79-66 victory in the final day of the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations Thursday, Sept. 23 at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Playing with nothing stake after clinching the twice-to-beat advantage and playing a Gin Kings side desperate for a win, it was the Bolts who played like their lives depend on it as they rolled to a hot start before overcoming a third quarter to slump to preserve the victory.
The Bolts finished at 9-2, with their victory securing a quarterfinal matchup with the No. 7 seed NLEX Road Warriors, who they beat the other day the secure the twice-to-beat incentive.
“We really just wanted to have the momentum going into the playoffs. We didn’t want to come off a loss going into the playoffs,” said Meralco coach Norman Black.
Mac Belo and rookie Alvin Pasaol scored 15 points apiece while Chris Newsome, who was penalized P20,000 by the PBA Commissioner’s Office, for throwing the ball at NLEX’s Tony Semerad in the previous match, had 10 points, nine rebounds and six assists in his second game back from COVID-19 protocols.
Bong Quinto added eight points, nine rebounds and eight assists, Raymond Almazan put up six points and 10 rebounds while seldom-used big man Jammer Jamito made back-to-back baskets that made it 77-63 for Meralco with 2:43 left in the fourth on his way to seven points and nine rebounds.
Ginebra never got things going after Meralco raced to a 10-0 start and finished the elims with a 4-7 record, its quarterfinal hopes wresting on the NorthPort-Alaska match being played as of posting time.
The Gin Kings are hoping for a Batang Pier win over the Aces to secure a playoff against the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters for the eighth and final quarters berth.
But Alaska, which was eliminated the other night when it fell 101-100 to San Miguel Beer on Marcio Lassiter’s three-pointer, can end Ginebra’s campaign with a victory and set up a No. 8 playoff between Phoenix and Terrafirma.
Phoenix and Terrafirma carry superior quotients over Ginebra and Alaska if a four-way tie at 4-7 occurs.
Stanley Pringle and Christian Standhardinger had 19 and 17 points for Ginebra, which played without rebounding machine Scottie Thompson after he entered the league’s health and safety guidelines.
Trailing 47-32 at the half, Ginebra held Meralco to just eight points in the third and trailed 55-51 going into the fourth. But the Gin Kings couldn’t sustain their momentum and the Bolts were able to keep hold on their lead.
MERALCO 79 — Pasaol 15, Belo 15, Newsome 10, Quinto 8, Maliksi 7, Jamito 7, Almazan 6, Caram 4, Hodge 3, Pinto 2, Baclao 2, Jackson 0.
GINEBRA 66 — Pringle 19, Standhardinger 17, Tenorio 11, Chan 7, Mariano 6, Devance 4, Dillinger 2, Caperal 0, Enriquez 0, Holmqvist 0.
Quarters: 23-15, 47-32, 55-51, 79-66.