Tropa regain control; Bolts restore power
MANILA, Philippines — The Tropang Giga jumped the gun on the Beermen and raced to an 11-nil start and, learning from their Game 2 meltdown, pressed hard all the way to the finish to secure the pivotal win.
RR Pogoy rifled in 26 points while Poy Erram dropped 21 points on top of 13 rebounds for the troops of coach Chot Reyes, who quickly gained redemption after squandering a 19-point lead in their previous 96-98 setback.
Rookie Mikey Williams finally found his range in the duel and shot 20 to go with five rebounds and five assists while defensive-minded guard Kib Montalbo contributed 11.
“We just talked about playing 48 minutes because in the first two games, we got beat in the fourth quarter. And everyone responded,” said TNT coach Chot Reyes, whose squad earlier survived a sputtering finish in Game 1, 89-88.
Earlier, Meralco restored power and struck back against Magnolia, 91-86, to cut the Hotshots’ lead to 2-1.
Backed to a corner, the shorthanded Bolts fought with ferocity and purpose to finally break through in the race-to-four affair after conceding the first two games, 79-88 and 78-92.
The Bolts, who overcame the absence of key big man Raymond Almazan (sprained ankle), Aaron Black (hand injury) and relievers Trevis Jackson and Jamer Jamito (under health protocols), put themselves in a position to force the Hotshots to a 2-2 standoff tomorrow with this much-needed victory.
“We played with a big heart,” said Meralco coach Norman Black, whose charges were determined to avoid falling into a 0-3 hole and needing a miraculous comeback like what San Miguel Beer did in stealing the seven-game title series from Alaska in the 2015-16 season All-Filipino.
“Only one team has ever come back from 0-3 and gone on to win the series so we treated the game like there’s no tomorrow for us. Credit to all the players. We did have a pretty good lead that we lost again but I think we just got a little bit tired down the stretch but the guys were able to hold on for the victory.”
Chris Newsome led Meralco with 17, topped off by two clutch jumpers in the last four minutes that helped fend off Magnolia’s searing fourth-quarter rally from 21 points down, while Nards Pinto added 16.
Cliff Hodge banged in five of his seven markers in final canto and grabbed 12 rebounds while reliever Noy Baclao chipped in 10 to fill in the slack inside.
Paul Lee topscored for Magnolia with 18.
The Hotshots threatened the Bolts with a major uprising in the payoff period, chipping away Meralco’s 75-54 margin and going to within 72-77.
But Newsome and Hodge stepped forward to mop it up.
“I told the guys we’re still ahead, just stabilize ourselves, play good defense, come down and get the best possible matchup on offense. And we’re able to do that,” said Black. “At this point of the conference, it doesn’t matter how many points you win as long as you win.”