Meralco upends Magnolia in semifinal to forge title showdown with Ginebra

THE Meralco Bolts pulled off a gutsy 94-81 victory over the Magnolia Hotshots to forge a championship showdown against Barangay Ginebra for the PBA Governors’ Cup crown.Allein Maliksi found his shooting form when it mattered most, as he scored 24 points spiked by six three-pointers, including several in crunchtime to help the Bolts push past the Hotshots in the highly physical winner-take-all Game Five at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.Raymond Almazan and Chris Newsome also put forth splendid performances to offset the quiet night of import Tony Bishop who finished with just eight on 3-of-18 shooting from the field.Almazan had 18 points while Newsome almost had a triple-double with 17 points, 12 assists, and eight rebounds. He also scored the Bolts’ last six points, including a trifecta that put them in front by 13, 90-77, with 1:37 remaining.The win means Meralco will get another shot at Ginebra, which has beaten them three straight times in the Governors’ Cup finals. Game One will be on Wednesday.The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for a Magnolia team that ended up with the number one seed after a scintillating run through the elimination round. They also had to play the last eight minutes of the game without import Mike Harris, who was hit by a wayward elbow by Bishop during a rebounding scramble and was left woozy.Harris was assisted by his teammates as he gingerly walked to the dugout. Later, he was seen on the bench wearing an oxygen mask to assist him with his breathing.Despite the incredible offensive showing of his locals, Meralco head coach Norman Black lauded his team’s work on the defensive end.“We just continued to play good defense. Our offense wasn’t really clicking today. We didn’t made many shots in the first half. I think they shot a much-better percentage than we did in the first half. We talked about it. If we were going to the finals, we have to rely on our defense. That’s basically what we did,” said Black.Magnolia was up, 65-62, at the start of the fourth but Meralco rattled off nine unanswered points to seize the lead, 71-65, and never look back.Calvin Abueva had 21 points and seven rebounds for Magnolia, while Paul Lee added 13 points. Jio Jalalon and Mark Barroca finished with 11 markers each.Like Bishop, Harris was a non-factor all game long. He finished with just five points before his exit. (JNP)