Bolts almost there Meralco nears 1st PBA crown with Game 5 win

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Bolts almost there Meralco nears 1st PBA crown with Game 5 win
Cliff Hodge of Meralco and Vic Manuel of San Miguel Beer box each other out in the first half of Game 5 last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Russell Palma

MANILA, Philippines — From the brink of elimination to the brink of a breakthrough PBA crown.

Meralco, the lion-hearted bunch that overcame one adversity after another, moved one win away from Philippine Cup glory with a clutch 92-88 Game 5 disposal of San Miguel Beer last night.

As they’ve repeatedly done all conference, the Bolts worked themselves to the bones to inch ahead of the defending champions, 3-2, to the delight of their orange-clad faithful at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Bolts, whose indomitable spirit carried them past a risky 3-5 start in the elims and a 2-3 deficit against Barangay Ginebra in the semis, are now in position to strike gold for the first time since joining the PBA in 2010.

They seek to complete their date with destiny – and end SMB’s reign along the way – tomorrow in Game 6 at the Big Dome.

Two days after firing a career-high 40 points in a 101-111 losing cause, Chris Newsome shot 18 of his 22 points in the second half to key Meralco’s pull-away in the tightly-fought encounter.

Newsome’s finishing touches came in the form of two pressure-packed free throws in the last 6.2 seconds that restored a 92-88 cushion after SMB sliced Meralco’s 10-point lead to just two.

Allein Maliksi shared team scoring honors with Newsome with 22 markers as he delivered his best performance of the series after averaging only 10 in the first four matches.

“Nothing to celebrate. Don’t think of the future, stay in the moment and prepare for Sunday’s Game (6),” said Maliksi, whose last basket at the 3:25 mark of the fourth gave the Bolts a 90-80 upperhand.

“Talagang chinallenge ko ang sarili ko to be aggressive, be a leader and be a veteran tonight,” he added.

Raymond Almazan dished out a similar bounceback performance of 14 points while Chris Banchero shot 12 to complement Newsome and Maliksi’s offensive.

Meralco pulled it off despite June Mar Fajardo’s 38 big points and 18 rebounds. CJ Perez chipped in 17 but a missed free throw in the last 7.2 ticks proved costly for the embattled Beermen.

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