By Adrian Stewart Co
Meralco Bolts survived a late rally by sister team NLEX Road Warriors for a 104-101 victory in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup yesterday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Comfortably ahead at 101-82 on a layup by Kier John Quinto, the Bolts were threatened by a huge 13-0 scoring blast by the Road Warriors that cut the deficit to 101-95.
Quinto widened Meralco’s lead to 103-95 with a minute left with a layup before NLEX cut it to 101-103 on back-to-back three-pointers by rookie Calvin Oftana.
With a second remaining in the game, Bolts’ Raymond Almazan drilled his first free throw before intentionally missing the second to preserve the victory.
Allein Maliksi top-scored with 22 points, including four triples, while rookie Alvin Pasaol and Rey Mark Belo added 17 and 16 markers, respectively, for the Bolts.
Raymond Almazan had double-double 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Quinto and Ilonggo Antonio Jose Caram each finished with 10 markers for Meralco.
With the victory, the Bolts secured the No. 2 spot and twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals with its 7-2 win-loss slate. They will close their elimination round match against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings today.
Oftana tallied career-high 34 points, while Negrense Raul Soyud and JR Quiñahan added 14 and 13 points, respectively, as the Road Warriors dropped to 5-6 slate./ASC, WDJ