ALLEIN Maliksi and Co. would not let Meralco go out without a fight.
Maliksi picked up from where Nards Pinto and Chris Newsome left off in boosting the Bolts over the Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok Hotshots 102-98 Wednesday in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals duel at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
In his finest scoring game in a Meralco uniform, Maliksi strung up nine of his game-high 29 points in the game's final 3:28, breaking the Bolts from the last deadlock at 90-all and giving them the much-needed separation in a tightly-fought game.
There is little time to celebrate for Meralco, however, as all it did was whittle its deficit in the best-of-seven series to 2-3 with Magnolia again taking another shot at sealing the deal in Game 6 Friday.
Still, the sterling effort displayed by his Bolts were enough to please coach Norman Black no end. "It was a very gutsy performance on the part of my players to go out and battle the entire game," he said.
"We also fought the Magnolia team on a good night," added Black. "I thought they played well tonight. They really played to go out and shut us off already and eliminate us. But we stood our ground... and gave ourselves a chance to come back in the series."
Indeed, Magnolia displayed its intention to end the duel as early as possible, with Mark Barroca, Ian Sangalang and Calvin Abueva trying their best.
It's just that Meralco's resolve is stronger as exemplified by Pinto adding a career-high 24 points and five assists and Newsome chipping in 23 points, five rebounds and six assists before fouling out with still 7:10 to go in the game.
Even Almazan, who missed the series' last two games due to a sprained ankle, also made his presence felt by finishing with nine points and 10 rebounds, with his three charities inside the final 10 seconds keeping Magnolia at bay.
Buoyed by the news last Monday of his third son being born, Barroca wound up with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists with Abueva adding 19 points, eight rebounds and six dimes and Sangalang 15 markers and 14 boards.
Paul Lee had 13 points, but only on a 4-of-10 shooting from the field. He also issued five assists negated by as many turnovers.
With their chief offensive threat struggling, the likes of Jio Jalalon and Jerrick Ahanmisi also tried to step up. Those were still not enough in tiding the Hotshots over in a game that had 17 deadlocks and 11 lead changes.
"Our backs against the wall, so talagang sabi namin ibigay lang namin ang best effort and bahala na kung ano magiging result ng game," said Maliksi, who shot 7-of-8 from beyond the arc in churning out his highest production in a Meralco uniform. (NC)
Meralco 102 - Maliksi 29, Pinto 24, Newsome 23, Almazan 9, Hugnatan 6, Hodge 4, Belo 4, Quinto 3, Black 0, Jackson 0, Jose 0, Caram 0, Pasaol 0, Baclao 0, Jamito 0.
Magnolia 98 - Barroca 25, Abueva 19, Sangalang 15, Lee 13, Jalalon 12, Ahanmisi 8, Reavis 6, Brill 0, Corpuz 0, Melton 0, Capobres 0, Dela Rosa 0, Pascual 0, Dionisio 0.
Quarters: 23-23, 45-47, 69-71, 102-98.