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PBA: Bolts edge Elite

Meralco’s Cliff Hodge soars high for a shot against Blackwater’s JP Erram and Riego Gamalinda during PBA action at Smart Araneta Coliseum. (Tony Pionilla)

Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Kia vs Rain or Shine
7 p.m. – NLEX vs Ginebra

The Meralco Bolts have taken the road less travelled on the way to a share of leadership in the PBA Philippine Cup.

Less than a week after going through two overtimes to subdue Barako Bull, the Bolts, behind John Wilson, needed a third yesterday to put away newcomer Blackwater, 83-75, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, a hard-earned win they savored in tying Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and San Miguel Beer at the helm.

Alaska was playing Talk ‘N Text at presstime and could make it a four-way jam with their second straight victory as well.

Cliff Hodge led Meralco with career high 26 points and 18 rebounds, 12 points coming in the first quarter when the Bolts opened a 15-8 lead on the way to a seemingly safe 67-55 advantage in the fourth.

But Alex Nuyles, the former Rain or Shine defense specialist, found his groove late in the game, scoring 10 of his 14 points as the Elite, who dropped their first two games, knotted the game on a top-of-the-key 3-point shot by Riego Gamalinda, 14.8 seconds to go.

Meralco called time and a driving Gary David drew three defenders on him before dishing off to Reynel Hugnatan, whose one-pump, point-blank shot rolled out. Elite center Jason Ballesteros grabbed the rebound and signalled for a timeout which the referees missed.

Sean Anthony then tied up Ballesteros over the Elite’s protest and Meralco, powered by Wilson, decisively took care of business, 13-5, in the extra five minutes.

Wilson’s first triple made it 73-72, erasing a Gamalinda basket earlier with 3:40 to go in overtime and his second made it 78-72.

“I actually don’t like overtimes, but my players seem to cherish them,” said Bolts coach Norman Black, who took over the team after handling Talk ‘N Text for two seasons. “Still as long as we come out winning, then playing overtimes isn’t so bad.”

Meanwhile, Barangay Ginebra shoots for solo leadership when it takes on NLEX at 7 p.m. today at the Big Dome. Kia Cars, meanwhile, seeks to rebound from a shellacking from the Kings when it faces Rain or Shine at 4:15 p.m.

“We have to keep working hard, especially on defense, that is really our focus this conference,” said Kings coach Jeffrey Cariaso. “Against NLEX, we expect it to be a tough game, this is a veteran team.”

MERALCO 83 – Hodge 26, Guevarra 10, Wilson 9, Anthony 9, David 7, Ildefonso 6, Ferriols 6, Atkins 4, Cortez 2, Dillinger 2, Hugnatan 2, Morrison 0, Buenafe 0, Sena 0, Macapagal 0.

BLACKWATER 75 – Nuyles 14, Menor 14, Faundo 10, Gamalinda 10, Artadi 6, Laure 6, Timberlake 5, Erram 4, Tiongson 2, Rodriguez 2, Ballesteros 2, Cawaling 0, Austria 0.

Quarters: 26-20, 44-32, 61-47, 70-70, 83-75