Bolts deny Beermen’s bid for elimination round sweep

Meralco has finally unlocked the mystery that had eluded the other 10 teams throughout the entire elimination round.

Behind their tenacious defense and fast-paced offensive plays, the Bolts managed to establish a significant lead and narrowly avoided a late-game collapse to hand San Miguel its first defeat in the PBA Season 48 Philippine Cup, with a final score of 95-92 at the Batangas City Coliseum on Saturday, May 4.

Key players such as Chris Newsome, Cliff Hodge, and Allein Maliksi all contributed crucial plays to withstand the Beermen’s relentless fourth-quarter comeback attempt, securing Meralco’s much-needed victory and marking the end of their elimination round with a 6-5 record.

This triumph not only propelled Meralco into the quarterfinals in a spectacular manner but also positioned them favorably for the upcoming rounds, securing at least a Top 6 finish in the tournament.

The Bolts also thwarted San Miguel’s bid for a perfect 11-0 sweep of the eliminations, a feat achieved only by four teams in the league’s history.

Meralco’s strategy of deploying various defensive combinations effectively neutralized key San Miguel players like CJ Perez and challenged June Mar Fajardo to earn every point against the Bolts’ formidable twin-tower defense. This approach enabled Meralco to build a commanding 16-point lead, 82-66, entering the final quarter.

Despite San Miguel’s valiant efforts to narrow the gap and come within striking distance, Meralco’s trio of Newsome, Hodge, and Maliksi orchestrated a crucial 7-2 run to regain control of the game when it mattered most.

The game reached a tense climax as San Miguel closed in within three points, 92-95, with possession in hand. However, a stroke of luck seemed to favor Meralco as Raymond Almazan inadvertently disrupted Fajardo’s potential game-tying three-point shot, ultimately sealing the victory for the Bolts.

Hodge emerged as an unexpected leading scorer for Meralco with 20 points and 13 rebounds, supported by Maliksi’s 19 points and Newsome’s 17 points.

Despite Fajardo’s impressive 23 points and 19 rebounds for San Miguel, the lack of scoring output from Perez and Lassiter proved to be the missing links in San Miguel’s pursuit of victory.

Perez, averaging 22.6 points, was held to just eight points, while Lassiter, known for his sharpshooting, failed to convert a single three-pointer in the loss.

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