PBA: Calvin Oftana winner keeps NLEX alive vs Meralco
MANILA, Philippines—Calvin Oftana delivered the haymaker as No.7 NLEX escaped with an 81-80 win over Meralco to force a rubber match in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals Wednesday at DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The season’s third overall pick made a hard cut to the basket as he received Jericho Cruz’s inbound pass for the game-winning layup with 6.1 seconds left.
Cliff Hodge tried to win it for the Bolts but JR Quiñahan met him for the block as time expired.
“It was intended for him, it went exactly as we planned,” said NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao of Oftana’s winner. “Of course sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t happen for you, but we’re really lucky it happened to us this time.”
Fortunately for Guiao, the breaks did really go in his team’s favor.
Prior to Oftana’s winner, Mac Belo was sent to the line with 8.6 seconds with a chance to give his team a three-point lead but the versatile forward bricked his shots as the score remained at 80-79.
Oftana was also able to make up for his lapses in the final minute of the game.
He first missed a three-pointer that would’ve given NLEX an 82-80 lead with 34 seconds remaining and allowed Bong Quinto to grab the offensive rebound off of Belo’s missed triple with 12 seconds to play.
But he more than made up for it in the end.
Veteran Reynel Hugnatan gave the Bolts an 80-79 lead with 55 seconds to play and that score stood up until Oftana’s gutsy layup.
Tony Semerad finished with a career-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting while Oftana and Don Trollano had 12 points apiece and combined for 17 rebounds.
Allein Maliksi had 16 points to lead the Bolts who were forced to make use of their twice-to-beat advantage as the conference’s second seed.