Bolts escape Beermen for 3-2 lead

Ralph Edwin Villanueva - Philstar.com
Bolts escape Beermen for 3-2 lead
Allein Maliksi (22) came up big for Meralco.
STAR / Russell Palma

MANILA, Philippines -- The Meralco Bolts are one win away from their historic PBA Philippine Cup championship after holding on against the San Miguel Beermen, 92-88, in Game 5 of the Finals Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Bolts are now holding a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series. This is the first time the team is in this position ever.

Allein Maliksi paced Meralco with 22 points, his best output in the championship series.

Ending the first half with just four points, Chris Newsome came alive in the final two quarters, finishing with 22 points. He also dished out five assists and hauled down five rebounds.

After trailing by as much as 10 points, 80-90, with 3:25 to go, the Beermen unleashed a run that pulled them to within a basket, 87-90,with 40 ticks remaining following a 3-pointer by CJ Perez.

On the other end, the Bolts were clamped down on defense, resulting in a missed triple by Chris Banchero. Perez was then fouled and was brought to the line for two free throws.

Perez, though, missed his first and made his second, handing Meralco a two point advantage, 90-88 with just seven seconds left.

Newsome’s freebies iced the game, as Marcio Lassiter’s 3-point attempt failed to make the mark.

"Both teams are always ready, it's a best-of-seven series, I don't think anybody's gonna  have their guard down, and both teams are ready," Meralco head coach Luigi Trillo said after the game. 

"Every game has been close, every game has been tight... Today was a little bit of a struggle. Could have gone either way, so we just have to move forward to the next game," he added. 

With the Bolts trailing by one, 69-70, heading into the final canto, they started the quarter with a 9-3 run to go up by six, 78-72.

Back-to-back shots by Jericho Cruz and Fajardo cut the six point deficit to just two, 76-78, with less than eight minutes remaining.

Meralco, then, unleashed a 10-2 run to grab a 10 point lead, 88-78, with 5:22 left.

A pair of free throws by CJ Perez halted the blitz, but Maliksi answered with a layup of his own, setting up the Beermen’s furious rally.

Raymond Almazan and Chris Banchero backstopped the Bolts with 14 and 12 markers, respectively.

June Mar Fajardo had a monster outing of 38 markers and 18 boards, but it was not enough to grab the crucial win.

Perez was the only other San Miguel player in double digits with 17 points and 10 rebounds. However, he made just four of his 16 field goals.

Meralco will try to clinch their first PBA title on Sunday, 6:15 p.m., at the same venue.

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