Bolts, Hotshots roar

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Bolts, Hotshots roar
Meralco’s Chris Newsome soars high to foil a shot by San Miguel behemoth June Mar Fajardo.
Jun Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines — Four months after their aborted partnership with Shabazz Muhammad in the PBA Governors’ Cup, No. 4 Meralco sent the fancied import and his team San Miguel Beer packing.

With Tony Bishop as main executor, the twice-to-beat Bolts sliced the jugular of their fifth-ranked quarterfinal rival SMB, 100-85, for a lightning entry to the semifinals yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Panamanian reinforcement Bishop rifled in 32 to go with 16 rebounds, four assists and two blocks as the Bolts progressed to the next stage against No. 1 Magnolia while scoring payback for their 115-110 heartbreaker to the Beermen in the elims.

Muhammad, who torched Meralco with 57 last time, was cuffed and scored 33 less in the quarters duel against the Bolts’ physical defenders led by Cliff Hodge.

“The whole focus was trying to slow down Shabazz and not allowing him to get another 57 points on us. We’re hoping to hold him down to 30 but we had him down to 24 and that’s even better,” said Meralco coach Norman Black, whose team made the Final Four for the fourth straight conference.

“It’s nice to be back in the semifinals again and you know, it’s not everyday that you beat a powerhouse San Miguel team so it’s a good win for us.”

Bishop was at his most lethal in the third quarter, where he dropped 18 on a 4-of-5 shooting from the deep to spark Meralco to a 21-point tear and a 79-61 cushion going to the last period.

The Beermen threatened to make a repeat of their come-from-behind elims victory, where they fought back from 26 down, but Meralco was ready this time.

Chris Newsome was solid in the semis-clinching win for the Bolts as well, delivering 22, including eight in the mop-up, along with seven boards.

Taking the cue from fellow top four squad Meralco, the No. 1 Hotshots finished off eighth-ranked Phoenix with a merciless 127-88 annihilation on their end.

Paul Lee fired 20 of his team-high 25 in the first half as Magnolia quickly asserted its might and opened an early 20-point tear.

Seven other Hotshots scored in double digits – Mark Barroca (18 with seven dimes), import Mike Harris (15-8-5), Jio Jalalon (15-8), comebacking Calvin Abueva (12-9), Ian Sangalang (11), Adrian Wong (11) and Rome dela Rosa (10).

– as Magnolia forged a second straight semis duel with Meralco.

“We had a pretty big lead last time we played and they got away from us. It really hurt us so we wanted to correct our mistakes this time,” said Newsome.

“We knew if we’re going to get a lead we have to hold it, make sure we stay in control and not turn the ball over. That was our main focus.”

Meanwhile, it’s a double-knockout Saturday at the Big Dome today with No. 3 TNT and sixth-seeded defending champion Barangay Ginebra disputing a semifinal seat and No. 2 NLEX and No. 7 Alaska settling the score in their Last-8 showdown.

Determined to extend their reign, the Gin Kings thwarted the twice-to-beat Tropang Giga in Wednesday’s initial encounter, 104-92., while the Aces, not wanting to say goodbye to the PBA yet, toppled the Road Warriors, 93-79.


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