The Meralco Bolts refused to fade quietly in their best-of-seven semifinals series with the Magnolia Hotshots.
The return of Raymund Almazan from an injury somehow helped the Bolts move out of a hole that they were in with a 102-98 triumph in Game 5 of the 2021 Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup at the Don Honorio Ventura State University gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
After missing the last two games of the series with a sprained ankle in Game 2, the 6’8” Almazan rose to the occasion in the last period and his heroics kept the Bolts in contention for the finals with their second win five outings.
Almazan’s contribution of nine points, including two split charities in final 10 and seven seconds, allowed the Bolts to keep a four-point cushion as the clock winded down.
This kept the Bolts’ dimming finals hopes alive as they now have a chance to tie the series in Game 6 this Friday.
“The Magnolia team was out there to eliminate us. But we stood our ground and made some big shots down the stretch. We kept our composure and gave ourselves a chance to come back in the series,” said Bolts’ coach Norman Black.
The effort done by Almazan complemented the career-high performances of Allain Maliksi and Nards Pinto.
Maliksi equaled his second career-best output of 29 points, knocking eight points, including two treys in the last 1:21 to put the Bolts ahead, 99-93.
Pinto also played the best game of his life, hitting a career-high 24 points, with a triple in the remaining 5:21 tying the match 86-all.
Andy Barroca banged in 25 points for the Hotshots as he put the Bolts in front for the last last time, 86-82, off his two freebies with 6:20 to go.
“It was a gutsy performance on the part of my players to go out there, and battle it out in the entire game,” added Black.
Calvin Abueva, who tallied 19 points, kept creating problems for the Bolts down the stretch, with his triple and alley-oop basket in the last eight seconds allowing the Hotshots to remain within range, 98-100, before Almazan sealed the win with his freebies.
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