The Meralco Bolts made a last surge run to oust the NLEX Road Warriors and move to the next round, 104-97, Monday evening at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The shots of the Bolts were not falling in the early goings of the first quarter, so the Road Warriors were able to build a 15-4 lead behind prolific import Al Thornton and guard Jonas Villanueva. Behind veteran Reynel Hugnatan, Meralco closed the gap and trailed by only three at the end of the first frame, 22-19.
NLEX shifted gears in the second quarter and erected a 41-29 lead with three minutes left in the half. However, Meralco’s Jimmy Alapag, Jared Dillinger, and import Arinze Onuaku managed to trim the deficit to just five, 43-38, to end the first half.
Meralco made a 10-5 run to tie the count at 48-all. They continued this phase and led by as much as six point midway in the third period. However, a foul by Hugnatan broke their momentum, and NLEX was able to regain the lead, 71-70 at the end of the third quarter.
Behind triples by Garvo Lanete and Simon Enciso, NLEX built a huge nine-point lead, 87-78 in the final five minutes of the game. However, Meralco had enough gas left in the tank to tie the game at 87-all behind the exploits of Dillinger and rookie Chris Newsome. The momentum gained by Meralco proved too much for NLEX as they surrendered the match and bow out of the semis.
Meralco was led by Dillinger’s 19 points and Newsome’s 15 markers. The duo was instrumental in the late run to propel their team to victory.
Import Al Thornton carried the scoring cudgels for the Road Warriors with 38 points. Lanete was the only Road Warriors in double digits with a career-high 21 points.
Meralco will face the winner of the Alaska-TNT tussle in a best-of-five series in the semis.