Bolts give sag­ging PHL Cup bid a spark

Business World - - SPORTS | WORLD - Michael An­gelo S. Murillo

THE Mer­alco Bolts got the elu­sive win­ning break they were an­gling for, sur­viv­ing the Phoenix Fuel Masters, 92-90, yes­ter­day to halt a three-game los­ing streak and give their sag­ging play­off push in the PBA Philip­pine Cup a spark.

Forced to the wall in the se­cond half by a re­silient Phoenix crew, the Bolts took the chal­lenge head- on and never wa­vered to hack out the vic­tory that has them im­prov­ing to 3-6 as the elim­i­na­tion round of the sea­son- open­ing Philip­pine Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (PBA) tour­na­ment hits the fi­nal stretch.

The Bolts were in their ele­ment at the start of the game with Cliff Hodge lead­ing the way as they es­tab­lished a 10-0 lead a quar­ter into the open­ing frame.

They would con­tinue to keep the Fuel Masters at bay the rest of the pe­riod, hold­ing a dou­ble-digit spread, 29-18, by the end of the first canto.

In the se­cond pe­riod, Phoenix would open things with a 7-0 run to nar­row the gap at four points, 29-25, at the 9:54 mark.

But the Bolts got hold of them­selves and fought back as Garvo Lanete and Mr. Hodge trig­gered a 10-4 blast in the next three min­utes to ex­tend their lead anew to 10 points, 39- 29, then tak­ing it to 16 mark­ers, 49- 33, with four min­utes left on the clock.

The two teams even­tu­ally fought to a 54- 40 count by the half­time break with Mer­alco still ahead.

Like in the se­cond quar­ter, Phoenix would go on a fast start to be­gin the third quar­ter.

Towed by Matthew Wright, the Fuel Masters outscored the Bolts, 10-1, in the first two min­utes.

Mer­alco re­tal­i­ated with six straight points to give it­self more breath­ing space but Phoenix would con­tinue to charge back, com­ing to within a soli­tary point, 61-60, with less than five min­utes left in the pe­riod.

The Bolts con­tin­ued to hold off the Fuel Masters un­til RJ Jazul gave Phoenix the lead, 7170, with a three- pointer with 30 sec­onds to go which they even­tu­ally ex­tended to a five- point dis­tance, 75-70, at the end of the third frame.

With the out­come of the con­test still open, the teams stood toe-to-toe as the fi­nal 12 min­utes got un­der way.

The score was at 81- all with five min­utes re­main­ing un­til the Bolts strung five straight points in the next minute to build an 86- 81 lead.

Mer­alco had a 90- 84 ad­van­tage en­ter­ing the last two min­utes, but Phoenix kept it­self in the ball game, cut­ting their deficit to two points, 92-90, with 21 ticks to go.

Phoenix stepped up their de­fense in the en­su­ing play, forc­ing a jump ball on Mer­alco’s Chris New­some.

They won the tap and sued for time to set up a play. Jeff Chan had a chance to win the game for Phoenix but his three- pointer as time ex­pired failed to hit the mark.

Mr. Lanete led Mer­alco with 24 points with Mr. Hodge adding 17 points.

Willy Wil­son, mean­while, paced by Phoenix (4-5) with 24 points while Mr. Wright had 16 be­fore foul­ing out.

“We just treated the game as cham­pi­onship game. That was what coach told us. If we lost we are out, it’s that sim­ple,” said Mr. Lanete, named player of the game, of the mind- set they had in the match.

The Bolts still have to sweep their last two games to have a shot at ad­vanc­ing into the next round. —

THE MER­ALCO BOLTS ended a three-game los­ing streak in the PBA Philip­pine Cup yes­ter­day af­ter de­feat­ing the Phoenix Fuel Masters, 92-90.

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