Vernon Macklin is the one who’s leaving. But he’s the one handing out the going-away present.
Playing his last game here before flying to China for a more lucrative deal, Macklin helped Magnolia hammer out a dramatic 81-79 victory over Meralco in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday night.
Macklin’s two free throws with three seconds remaining provided the marginal points that gave the Hotshots the thrilling victory, which stole the spotlight from a huge TNT KaTropa victory earlier in the day.
Macklin also chipped in 21 points and 15 rebounds as Meralco missed a chance to send the game into overtime when Chris Newsome flubbed a perfectly-designed play when he missed what looked like a gimme alley-oop.
An all-Filipino TNT KaTropa dismantled Blackwater after getting seven players in double figures for a 120-101 victory in the first game of the doubleheader at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ryan Reyes hit all of his 18 points from the three-point range, and Terrence Romeo and Jayson Castro drove the lanes with impunity as the Texters broke away in the second half to improve to 4-1 and reclaim a piece of the early lead with idle Rain or Shine.
It was exactly the kind of performance TNT management asked from its locals before the game, when they decided to send home the ineffective Jeremy Tyler and took a chance playing the Elite without an import.
“It was nice that the locals were really up to the challenge,” said coach Nash Racela, who thanked board member Ricky Vargas for a pep talk he gave the team before tip-off.
“He basically told them (TNT locals) that ‘all of you are imports,’” Racela quoted Vargas. “And everyone was ready to contribute.”
Man-mountain Josh Smith agreed to another tour of duty with the Texters and will be available when TNT returns to action after the All-Star break on June 1 against Columbian.
The loss was the sixth straight for the Elite, who dropped their first three games under original coach Leo Isaac.
Bong Ramos has so far failed to get anything going for Blackwater despite his celebrated appointment, with import Jarrid Famous good for only 11 points. Center Poy Erram led the Elite with 16.
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