Meralco outlasted top-seeded Magnolia, 94-81, in the winner-take-all match of the semifinals, Friday night in the 2021 PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
The Bolts won the best-of-five series, 3-2, and arranged another championship battle in the season-ending conference with Brgy. Ginebra which will commence on Wednesday, April 6 at the same venue. The two teams will meet in the Finals for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
It was a sorry exit for the Hotshots who topped the elimination round with a 9-2 record and then breezed past Phoenix in the quarterfinal round.
Allein Maliksi torched his former team with 24 points spiked by 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc to go with 3 rebounds and an assist in 29 minutes of action.
“We talked about it. If we were going to make it to the Finals, we’d have to rely on our defense. And that’s basically what we did. After a while, our shots started to fall a little bit. So it’s on to Ginebra now,” said head coach Norman Black during the post-game presser.
“It’s one of those things where, you know, you’re struggling a little bit the entire game, but you’re just trying to hang on and hang on and just stay in there and hope that your shots will fall. And that’s what happened,” he added.
Raymond Almazan scored 18 while Chris Newsome added a double-double of 17 points and a game-high 12 assists to go with 8 boards, 3 steals and a block. Aaron Black chipped in 16 markers.
Bolts import Tony Bishop could only manage 8 points and the same number of rebounds in 44 minutes of play.
Calvin Abueva paced the Hotshots with 21 points while Paul Lee added 13. Jio Jalalon and Mark Barroca chipped in 11 markers apiece while Ian Sangalang had 10.
Mike Harris left the game early in the 4th after a collision and never returned. He ended up with 5 points, 11 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal in 31 minutes of play.
Meralco 94 – Maliksi 24, Almazan 18, Newsome 17, Black 16, Bishop 8, Caram 4, Quinto 4, Hodge 3, Belo 0, Canete 0, Hugnatan 0, Pasaol 0, Baclao 0.
Magnolia 81 – Abueva 21, Lee 13, Jalalon 11, Barroca 11, Sangalang 10, Dela Rosa 6, Harris 5, Wong 2, Corpuz 1, Reavis 1, Brill 0, Ahanmisi 0, De Leon 0, Dionisio 0, Escoto 0.
Quarterscores: 23-29, 41-46, 62-65, 94-81.