MANILA, Philippines – At the PhilSports Arena on Wednesday, NLEX put forth a solid second half performance to defeat Meralco, 92 to 81, and maintain their playoff hopes for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
The Road Warriors defeated the Bolts, 53 to 24, in the second half and 28 to 10 in the dying seconds to finish the elimination round with a second straight victory with a 5 to 7 overall record. Earl Clark led the way with 40 points and 11 rebounds and received plenty of support from his local teammates.
NLEX is still awaiting the outcome of Friday’s game against 9 to 2 Magnolia and 5 to 6 Rain or Shine. For the eighth and last spot in the quarterfinals, the Elasto Painters would face a sudden death matchup against the Road Warriors if they lost.
When they arrived, NLEX coach Frankie Lim promised to cross the bridge with his team. He recalled, “Before the game, I told you that I simply wanted to worry about this game and not the things that might happen tomorrow.
Then we’ll see what happens if we just win this game first, Lim continued. “Basta kami tapos na… mag-aantay kami. Bahala sila sa game nila [we are done…we are waiting, let them do their game]”
Meralco has a chance to finish at 5 to 7 if it defeats San Miguel Beer in its last game, which is also on Friday, after losing its second straight contest dropped it to a 4 to 7 record. Though the Bolts could only expect to place 10th due to a quotient hurt by a 1 to 5 start to the midseason tournament.
As a result of Meralco’s elimination, 6 to 5 SMB, 6 to 6 NorthPort, and 6 to 6 Phoenix Super LPG have also gained automatic spots in the quarterfinals, with the Beermen guaranteed to advance to fifth place regardless of how their matchup with the Bolts turns out.
When Meralco outscored NLEX, 40 to 14, inside the paint to take a 57 to 39 lead into halftime, it appeared as though it was on its way to putting the 96 to 108 losses to Magnolia last Sunday behind it.
The tide finally shifted in Lim’s favor, though, once the Road Warriors tightened their defensive clamps, with their comeback effort highlighted by a 14 to 0 run from a 74 to 77 deficit that gave them an 88 to 77 lead.
In that nearly four-minute span, during which Clark scored eight points, Paul Varilla scored three points, and Michael Miranda scored one each, Meralco made zero of ten shots.
Don Trollano, who had 16 points and nine rebounds, primarily supported Clark. Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser was the only other player to reach double figures, scoring 10 points, seven of which came in the third quarter, when NLEX had cut their lead to 64 to 71.
Meralco was led by KJ McDaniels, who had 22 points and nine caroms while Chris Newsome and Raymond Almazan were both on the bench.