A depleted Meralco side avoided sinking into a 0-3 hole after it eked out a 91-86 victory over Magnolia in Game 3 of their best-of-seven semifinal series in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup on Friday in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Even with the absence of big man Raymond Almazan (ankle) and guard Aaron Black (finger), Nards Pinto proved effective for the Bolts with 16 points, five rebounds, and two assists while Chris Newsome carved out 17 markers and six boards to lead the Bolts.
Despite a manpower shortage, Meralco was still able to erect a 47-37 halftime lead with Mac Belo shouldering the bulk of the Bolts' offense with his 12-point production in the first two quarters.
The Bolts also finished the half shooting 8-for-16 from beyond the arc.
Magnolia managed to close the gap to 51-48 at one point in the third but scorching Meralco continued to banked on its hot-shooting with Pinto, Newsome, Anjo Caram, and Allein Maliksi leading a 21-6 run to end the frame ahead, 73-54.
The Hotshots showed some signs of life in the payoff period, erupting for an 18-4 run to make it a single-digit spread, 77-72, with rookie Jerrick Ahanmisi knocking down two triples.
A three-point play opportunity from Paul Lee and a putback by Rafi Reavis sliced Magnolia’s deficit once more, 89-86, with 28 ticks left to play in the game. Newsome then drained a crucial long jumper that sealed the win for his team.
Belo also added 14 points for Meralco while Noy Baclao finished with 10.
Magnolia was powered by Lee, who finished with game-high 18 points with Ian Sangalang and Calvin Abueva chipping in 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Meralco 91 - Newsome 17, Pinto 16, Belo 14, Baclao 10, Maliksi 9, Quinto 8, Caram 8, Hodge 7, Hugnatan 2.
Magnolia 86 - Lee 18, Sangalang 15, Abueva 12, Dela Rosa 10, Jalalon 9, Ahanmisi 8, Dionisio 8, Reavis 2, Barroca 2, Corpuz 2, Melton 0.
Quarterscores: 24-14, 47-37, 73-54, 91-86
—JMB, GMA News