Apr 21, 2024

FiberXers derail Bolts' playoffs drive

CONVERGE may already be out of playoffs contention but would not go quietly into the night.

Bryan Santos made sure of that in leading the FiberXers to a 104-99 stunner over Meralco Sunday at the PhilSports Arena that ended the former's long losing streak in the PBA Philippine Cup.

Santos exploded for a career-best 22 points in the second half, with 16 coming in the third quarter that sparked Converge's fightback from 11 points down, before capping his heroics with two clutch shots in the stretch.

The former UST Tiger's sixth triple of the game gave the FiberXers a 96-93 lead before the last shattered the game's 11th and final deadlock at 97-all, putting coach Aldin Ayo's team ahead to stay.

Chris Newsome tried to bring some order to Meralco's listless plays in the endgame with a jumper, whittling the deficit to just one. But that proved to be the Bolts' last gasp as they were unable to buy any point despite four offensive thrusts in the final two minutes.

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Schonny Winston, meanwhile, canned two charities and JL delos Santos rattled in a jumper, sealing the FiberXers' first win since beating Terrafirma on Dec. 13 of last year during the Commissioner's Cup, after which it lost 12 straight.

"We're excited for this win," said Ayo after his team notched a first victory in nine tries in the ongoing tourney, not enough to bring it back into contention for a playoff slot, but one that gives additional hope for the team's future.

Ayo even said his team's 103-112 loss to San Miguel Beer just last Friday served its purpose of preparing his team against Meralco. "We prepared hard for San Miguel pero hindi nangyari, saying," he said.

"Pero ito... we had almost the same gameplan because in a day... hindi ka makakapag-prepare, eh," added Ayo. "Same gameplan, same approach. The players are motivated, the whole team is motivated to get this first win."

None more so than Santos, who went into the game averaging just 11.6 points and seemed hard-pressed to approximate that by going scoreless in the first half. Then came the third period in which he went 5-of-6 from the field while hitting all his five triple tries.

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"Nagawa ko lang naman iyon, tulad ng sabi ni coach, dahil sa mga plays, dahil sa mga teammates ko na ibinibigay sa akin 'yung kompiyansa," said Santos.

Alec Stockton scored 20 points before fouling out with still 6:55 left while Justin Arana added 18 points, seven rebounds and as many assists for Converge.

The loss, its second straight that dropped it to 3-5, dealt a big blow to Meralco's bid to gain inclusion among the top eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals.

Newsome tallied 25 points and five assists and Chris Banchero added 20 with the bulk coming in the first half that powered the Bolts to a 53-42 lead. (NC)

The Scores:

CONVERGE 104 - Santos 22, Stockton 20, Arana 18, Winston 14, Delos Santos 10, Caralipio 9, Maagdenberg 4, Melecio 4, Nieto 2, Fleming 1, Fornilos 0.

MERALCO 99 - Newsome 25, Banchero 20, Black 19, Hodge 10, Quinto 9, Caram 6, Bates 5, Pasaol 5, Rios 0, Pascual 0, Maliski 0, Torres 0.

QUARTERS: 23-25, 42-53, 77-77, 104-99