(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Alaska
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Talk ‘N Text
Manny Pacquiao’s Kia Motors was still in the thick of the fight with 8:28 remaining yesterday, having rallied furiously from 22 points to grab a two-point lead. Then came a 14-2 barrage from the Meralco Bolts and it was light’s out at last for the Sorento’s flickering playoff bid.
The Sorento did come within three with the ball in their possession following a Jared Dillinger turnover in the closing seconds. But the Bolts hung on behind their defense and coach Norman Black had a big exhale on clinching a 99-93 victory in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Asked whether the thought of getting beaten by Pacquiao ever occurred to him at any point, Black, who has been around long enough to shy away from the inconvenient truth, said it did.
“Definitely, especially after they took the lead in the third quarter (72-71),” said Black. “There was the possibility that we could lose.”
There was an even stronger probability the Bolts were going to fall much later after Kia’s Hans Thiele broke a 77-all tie and Eliud Poligrates gave the Sorento an 81-78 lead with Meralco in disarray.
Then followed a hazy sequence of events that apparently took the wind out of Kia’s impending breakaway.
Poligrates lost his footing as he went for a drive, stumbling but tenaciously hanging on to the ball near the baseline. He signaled for a timeout just as Meralco forward Sean Anthony laid a hand on the ball but didn’t get the call he wanted.
A jump ball was ruled instead, so infuriating Kia assistant coach Glenn Capacio who appeared to bump one of the referees. No calls were made against Capacio and Meralco went on a 14-2 run after that, with Mark Macapagal coming off the bench and hitting two 3-point shots.
With the loss, their 9th in 10 games, the expansion Sorento bowed out of playoff contention, a remote probability fueled by recent upsets in the second half of the elimination round where the top two teams get semifinal byes, the bottom two are booted out and the middle eight go through a two-phase quarterfinals.
NLEX (3-7) also could stop losing sleep over the prospect of getting dislodged by Kia for the 10th and last playoff berth.
Meralco, meanwhile, snapped a two-game losing streak, tying Globalport with 5-5 win-loss slates and reviving its chances for one of four twice-to-beat advantages in the playoffs.
Black, however, had to spell out to his players the dilemma they were facing after allowing the Sorento to fight back from 63-41 early in the third quarter.
Pacquiao started and played a little less than seven minutes this time, launching and missing two 3-point shots, grabbing 2 rebounds, committing one turnover and giving up one foul.
In the second game, Jay Washington and Ranidel de Ocampo scored 18 points each as Talk ‘N Text defeated Purefoods Star in overtime, 100-96, for a 7-3 record.