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PBA: Barako Bull alive

Asi, Lanete, Alabi, Villanueva

Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Meralco vs Blackwater
7 p.m. – Alaska vs Barangay Ginebra.

Manila, Philippines – The Barako Bull Energy have found a way to rise above the dense atmosphere choking the team standings on the penultimate day of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum – finish with a bang.

“Kumplikado ba?” said Barako Bull coach Koy Banal in the post-game interview when told the looming playoff picture has just become a little more muddled. “Sa ‘min kasi ito ang pinaka-simple: get a win.”

And the Energy did, no less against the hottest team in the conference.

Chico Lanete made it a walk in the park yesterday, hitting back-to-back 3-point shots inside the final two minutes to lift the Energy past the NLEX Road Warriors, 91-85, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Chico is a veteran and we knew we could rely on him in the stretch,” said Banal. “I’m just glad he stepped up in time.”

Lanete, who had 13 points behind import Solomon Alabi’s 29 points and 15 rebounds, badly misfired from beyond the arc on an earlier attempt with Barako Bull trailing, 85-83.

But he came back to bury a dagger 3 in front of NLEX’s Al Thornton with 1:54 left and followed it up with another 16 seconds later against KG Canaleta to key the Energy’s 5th win against six losses, a slate that could assure them of a slot in the quarterfinals against either top seed Rain or Shine or No. 2 Talk ‘N Text.

NLEX saw its five-game winning streak snapped after going scoreless in the last 6:01. Thornton had 24 points on 7 of 23 from the floor while Mark Cardona added 15. The two combined for 6 points in the fourth quarter, however, as Barako Bull outscored the Road Warriors, 19-10.

Banal paid tribute to the defensive intensity of Sol Mercado, who, Banal said, volunteered to do the hard work on Thornton.

“He told me before the game, I’m gonna guard him,’” said Banal, taking Mercado up on his offer while keeping some insurance on the bench with Dave Marcelo, Jake Pascual and Ronnie Matias in the event the Solomon experiment doesn’t pan out.

“Marami namang bubunutin kung sakali,” said the Energy coach.

As it turned out, Mercado was up to the task.

Now Barako Bull sits and waits.

Only the top five spots in the quarterfinals are secured at this point, with twice-to-beat qualifiers ROS and TNT, and defending champion Purefoods, Meralco and NLEX gearing up for the playoffs.

The last three berths are still up for grabs though among Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Alaska, Barako Bull, Globalport, Kia Carnival, and embattled Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer.

Meanwhile, Alaska (4-6) fights for survival when it meets Barangay Ginebra (5-5) in the final day of the eliminations today at the Big Dome.

The Aces and the Kings clash at 7 p.m. after the non-bearing game between playoff-bound Meralco and 12th-running Blackwater at 4:15 p.m.

A loss will doom the Aces’ bid while a victory could pave their way to the playoffs in the resulting tiebreak.

The Bolts will face the NLEX Road Warriors in a best-of-3 quarterfinal mini-series. (With report from Waylon Galvez)

First Game
BARAKO BULL 91 – Alabi 29, Lanete 13, Mercado 12, Intal 10, Pascual 10, Garcia 7, Hubalde 6, Lastimosa 2, Marcelo 2, Matias 0, Salvador 0, Salva 0.

NLEX 85 – Thornton 24, Cardona 15, Ramos 9, Taulava 9, Canaleta 8, Lingganay 7, Villanueva J. 5, Villanueva E. 4, Borboran 2, Baloria 2, Camson 0, Arboleda H. 0., Arboleda W. 0.

Quarters: 26-23, 51-49, 72-75, 91-85

Second Game
SAN MIGUEL 106 – Fajardo 31, Reid 20, Ross 15, Cabagnot 13, Lutz 11, Santos 9, Kramer 4, Lassiter 3, Reyes 0, Omolon 0, Semerad 0, Tubid 0.

GLOBALPORT 94 – Caracter 18, Romeo 15, Espinas 14, Buenafe 13, Nabong 8, Jensen 8, Semerad 6, Miranda 4, Pinto 4, Taha 2, Ponferrada 2, Isip 0.

Quarters: 21-23, 49-55, 76-72, 106-94