PBA: Meralco seals twice-to-beat, quells NLEX rally
MANILA, Philippines—Meralco captured the last of the two twice-to-beat perks in the quarterfinals after surviving NLEX, 104-101, in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Wednesday at DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The Bolts locked up the second seed with an 8-2 record but they first needed to weather the onslaught that the Road Warriors presented in the final quarter.
Meralco was comfortably up 101-82 with 7:00 to play but the Road Warriors mounted a 19-2 run to get to within two, 103-101, with 2.4 seconds left after rookie Calvin Oftana lit up from deep in the final moments of the game.
Raymond Almazan, though, sealed Meralco’s win from the charity stripe converting on his two free throws with 1.6 seconds remaining.
“The last eight minutes weren’t very pretty but at this point of the season every win counts,” said Meralco head coach Norman Black. “Now we can look forward to our next game against Ginebra and look forward to the playoffs.”
“We’re happy to get the twice-to-beat advantage, it’s the first time in Meralco franchise history that we’ve been able to do it.”
The Bolts, however, could play without Chris Newsome in its game against the Gin Kings on Thursday after the versatile forward was ejected early in the fourth quarter after a scuffle with Anthony Semerad.
8:26 4q Top of the key Maliksi 3! Oftana 2 on the counter; 95-82 Meralco lead #PBAiTuloyAngLaban pic.twitter.com/SV3BVqZupN
— PBA (@pbaconnect) September 22, 2021
Allein Maliksi had a team-high 22 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep to lead Meralco while Alvin Pasaol added 17 points on a 6-of-7 clip from the field.
Mac Belo filled the stat sheets for the Bolts with 16 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, while Raymond Almazan controlled the paint with 13 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks.
Oftana finished with a game-high 34 points on a highly efficient 8-of-11 from deep to lead the Road Warriors who ended their elimination round with a 5-6 record.
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