Jun 09, 2024

Bolts strike again, regain series lead

BLOWING away a four-point lead in the closing seconds the last time, the Meralco Bolts won't be denied this time.

Meralco and San Miguel Beer once again engaged in tough, tough battle with the former squeezing through on big shots by Chris Newsome, lifting the Bolts to a 93-89 victory and back in the driver's seat in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Newsome struck from the left flank for the go-ahead three-pointer, 91-89, and after a crucial miss by SMB hit man CJ Perez, the Meralco lead gun himself drained the game-clinching charities as the Bolts seized the 2-1 lead going to Game Four Wednesday also at the Big Dome.

Newsome's huge five-point binge capped his 26-point sizzler going with four rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal against two turnovers.

But again, there was a heavy lifting from a lot of players for Meralco just like in their 93-86 triumph in the series kickoff.

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Raymond Almazan had a solid stand versus June Mar Fajardo, coming through with 17 points and 13 rebounds before calling it a game with his sixth foul with 51.9 ticks left.

The other Meralco starters in Bong Quinto (16 points), Cliff Hodge (10 points and 13 rebounds) and Chris Banchero (10 markers, six boards and six assists) also stepped up, helping withstand San Miguel's 47-14 big advantage on bench production.

As in Game Two that was won by San Miguel, 95-94, the match boiled down to execution down the stretch.

And the Beermen went down beaten this time as Perez missed a potential equalizer from point-blank range with time down to 18 seconds.

With a foul from Perez himself, Newsome calmly sank his freebies, icing the win in the hard-fought battle where no team managed to lead by more than eight.

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The Bolts took a slim 48-46 halftime lead with Quinto showing the way with 13 markers, Almazan chipping in eight points and six rebounds and Brandon Bates contributing four boards.

The SMB starters were neutralized early on, but the Beermen were right there in the fight with reserves Moala Tautuaa, Don Trollano, Jeron Teng and Jericho Cruz on the firing end.

Perez and Marcio Lassiter hit their strides later but failed to convert when they needed to in the crunch.(SB)