Bolts give sagging PHL Cup bid a spark
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.