Meralco outlasts Ginebra to force do-or-die game



MANILA, Philippines, November 26 ------ Meralco's breakthrough campaign in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup will continue for at least another game. The Bolts hacked out a thrilling 83-80 victory over Barangay Ginebra on Wednesday night in Game 4 of the semifinals, extending the series to a do-or-die Game 5 at the Angeles University Foundation Gym in Angeles City, Pampanga. Chris Newsome made big plays down the stretch for Meralco, drilling two difficult jump shots and making the pass to Reynel Hugnatan for the go-ahead jumper with 15.1 seconds left to play that made it 81-80. Raymond Almazan then stepped up on the other end, blocking Stanley Pringle's layup at the rim.


Cliff Hodge fired an outlet pass to Newsome for a layup that pegged the final score, and LA Tenorio's heave that could have tied the game hit iron as the buzzer sounded. "We just wanted to get the first good available shot," Meralco coach Norman Black said of their last play on offense. "The play was between Reynel and Chris Newsome… They executed it well, but of course, you still gotta make the shot." "That's a huge shot for Reynel," he added. Newsome finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, six steals and five assists, while Hugnatan had a team-best 19 points. Almazan's rejection of Pringle was his lone block of the night to go along with 11 points and three boards. Hodge contributed 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting.


The best-of-five series is now tied at two apiece, with Meralco getting another chance not just to make it to the All-Filipino finals, but to exorcise some ghosts as well. Ginebra had won the last three playoff series between the two teams, all of which took place in the finals of the Governors' Cup. The Bolts appeared headed for a runaway win as they led by as much as 15 points, 46-31, at the start of the third quarter, thanks to an Allein Maliksi triple. But the Gin Kings found their rhythm from beyond the arc in the period, with Tenorio drilling back-to-back triples that sparked their comeback. Jared Dillinger -- a former Meralco star -- went on to score 10 points in the third frame, helping the Gin Kings take a 64-60 lead entering the final period.


But in a fourth quarter that had three lead changes, it was Meralco that emerged on top. Pringle conspired with Japeth Aguilar to give Ginebra an 80-78 lead with 1:25 to play, as the Bolts struggled to defend their two-man game. A missed three-pointer by Maliksi appeared to doom Meralco, but they got another chance when Nard Pinto forced a turnover on Tenorio with still 20 seconds left. That set the stage for Hugnatan's huge shot, and the Bolts stepped up on defense to preserve the win. Pringle bricked a layup with 8.3 ticks left, and after the Gin Kings retained possession, Almazan blocked his second attempt to snatch the lead.


"That was a huge block by Raymond," said Black. "He's still not a hundred percent, but he's getting better. That was such a huge defensive play for us." Pringle finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, and six assists, while Aguilar shook off a slow start to put up 12 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks. Dillinger finished with 15 points on just eight shots, while Scottie Thompson had 2 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.


Source: news.abs-cbn.com/sports