Maliksi’s game-winner forced a rubber match
Henry Walker outperformed Allen Durham in this match-up. (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
For the Blackwater Elite, a win here will give them another game to prove to the rest of the PBA that they do deserve being in the playoffs despite having no consistent superstar. For the Meralco Bolts, they only need one win to move on into the semifinals. For the Bolts, they cannot afford to allow the Elites to build any percentage of confidence in this game because if a team becomes confident that they can score on you no matter where they are in the standings, that’s a dangerous team to play against.
Wanting to prove their worth as they are in the playoffs for the second time in its history, the Blackwater Elite came out in the first quarter with an intensity that forced the Bolts to make shots that either clanked out of the ring or even miserably missed the net. On offense, the Elite were scoring on almost all sorts whether it’s a three-pointer or an inside shot.
For the Bolts on the other hand, who just came back from an 18-point hole to claim the top spot last Sunday, their offense was a mess and so was their defense. To worsen things, starting point guard Baser Amer who also played during a comeback win against San Miguel was taken out of the game after getting hurt he landed awkwardly during the opening minutes of the game.
The Bolts’ offense started to click in slowly come the second quarter as Cliff Hodge who was elbowed by Blackwater’s import Henry Walker the possession before, knocked down a three-pointer to tie the game at 29 apiece with 6:10 remaining in the quarter. Blackwater actually held a 10-point lead during the opening of the second quarter but thanks to the re-emergence of the Bolts’ defense, the Elite went scoreless for almost 3 minutes before finally broke the dry spell with a three-pointer of their own after that Hodge trey. Since then, it became a scramble for the lead as both teams struggled to hold onto the lead as both teams went into the halftime with the Elite leading at 42-40.
Blackwater for most parts, shot better during the first half, making 48% of their shot attempts including 33% from the three-point line. Allein Maliksi led a Blackwater team whose import Henry Walker was offensively absent during the first 24 minutes of play, with 9 points.
Allen Durham kept the Bolts within striking distance with his 11 points and 8 rebounds in the first half while Cliff Hodge led the Bolts with 12 points to his name. One of the reasons why the Bolts managed to keep it close was their defense which forced the Elite to throw the ball away 9 times during the first half in contrast to 4 turnovers of their own. The Bolts also took advantage of the Elites’ turnovers by outscoring Blackwater in terms of points off turnovers, 12-3.
The Elite started the third quarter by building on a 5-point lead but thanks to their inconsistency on both sides of the court, they never sustained a successful scoring as the Bolts answered every basket that Blackwater. The lead eventually grew up to 6 after Henry Walker drilled another three with under 7 minutes to play in the quarter.
A few possessions later, both Allen Durham and Dave Marcelo for a technical foul after almost getting into a shoving match as both were battling for a rebound under the Bolts’ basket. From that point on, it was an up and down battle as the lead changed hands multiple as the Bolts went nuts after Cliff Hodge dunked that gave them the lead at 62-61 with 21 seconds to go. However, the Elite was able to grab the lead back at 63-62 after Mike Digregorio scored on a lay-up with 4 seconds to play in the quarter. Digregorio for his part, already had 18 points by then.
While most of the PBA fans believed that the Bolts would finish this one in one game, Allen Maliksi had something else in mind when he drained the potential game-winning jumper as the Blackwater Elite held on for a 92-91 victory over the league-leading Meralco Bolts that forced another game to decide who will move on into the semifinals.
Both teams continued their exchange of baskets as Walker scored on a 3-point play only to be answered by Durham who scored on the ensuing possession. Walker followed that up with a three-pointer which put the lead back to 6 with 7:19 to play that forced Norman Black to call for a timeout because Walker has already scored 13 points during the early minutes of the quarter. Mike Tolomia and Jared Dillinger scored a three-pointer a few possessions and Jared added another trey to give the lead back to the Bolts only for Walker to answer right back with another one from rainbow country.
A Baser Amer trey that was followed by a Newsome fastbreak put Meralco in the lead at 84-81 with 3:36 to play and Leo Isaac called for time. With the Bolts only by a point, Newsome added another lay-up approaching the final 2-minute mark with increased the lead to 3 which would go down to two after Walker made one of the two charities on the next possession. Digregorio added another pair of free throws to tie the game at 86-all and Elite left Baser Amer wide open from the three-point line and they paid the price as Amer nailed the three which put the Bolts up 3.
In the ensuing possession, Jared Dillinger as called for a flagrant foul after hitting Roi Sumang with 1:06 to go. Sumang nailed both technical free throws then Maliksi, who came over to the Elite off a trade from the Star Hotshots earlier this conference, scored on a jumper to put his team up by a point, at 90-89 with 33 ticks on the clock. Knowing that his team needed to score, Durham was able to fish a foul from the Elite but missed both free throws.
Fortunately, Newsome was able to snatch important offensive rebound and quickly passed the ball back to Durham who scored off his own missed shot which put his team back up at 91-90 with seconds to work with. Off a timeout, the Elite quickly went to Maliksi who drained a jumper to give the lead back to Blackwater and Norman Black called for another timeout with 9 seconds left. The Bolts weren’t able to score on the next scoring opportunity as Tolomia’s difficult shot rattled out of the basket as time ran out.
Henry Walker led the way with 30 points and 18 rebounds. Mike Digregorio, without a doubt, played one of his best games with the Elite as he added 20 points while Allen Maliksi added 15 points. The Bolts, on the other hand, had Chris Newsome who led them with 19 points while import Allen Durham and Cliff Hodge added 18 points apiece. Durham also had 21 rebounds to his name.
Shooting percentage was what won it for the Elite as they outperformed the Bolts, making 46% of their attempts including 52% of their attempts from the two-point area. In addition to this, Blackwater committed the lesser turnover in the second half. Free throw shooting was also essential to Blackwater’s victory as Meralco missed more free throws, including the last two from Durham.
Blackwater – 92
Henry 30, Digregorio 20, Maliksi 15, Sumang 9, Eram 7, Sena 4, Marcelo 4, Canaleta 3, Belo 0, Miranda 0, Banal 0, Cervantes 0, Cruz, 0, Javier 0, Pinto 0
Meralco – 91
Newsome 19, Durham 18, Hodge 18, Dilinger 12, Tolomia 11, Amer 8, Hugnatan 5, Atkins 0, Yeo 0, Lanete 0, Sedurita 0, Caram 0, Nabong 0, De Ocampo 0, Faundo 0
24-17, 42-40, 63-62, 92-91