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Elite down Bolts

Game Tomorrow (Dubai)
7 p.m. –Mahindra vs Alaska
(11 p.m. in Manila)

The wide grin Blackwater coach Leo Isaac wore on his beaming face during the post-game interview last night could have spelled championship.

That it didn’t hardly mattered.

”Ang sarap ng feeling,” Isaac said. “Finally we won one in the All-Filipino.”

Isaac savored for a few moments the thrill – and relief – of victory that broke a string of 13 straight losses in this conference from last season before fielding questions following the Elite’s dramatic 92-90 win over the Meralco Bolts in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“We hope things will be in our favor from now on,” he said, noting that Blackwater’s first two losses this season came after tight three quarters.

The Elite, who blew an 18-point third quarter lead, came close to reliving another nightmarish collapse.

“It’s a good thing Carlo Lastimosa had the presence of mind to take charge,” Isaac said.

Lastimosa, who went to Blackwater in a multi-player trade that eventually sent Brian Heruela to San Miguel Beer, banked in a running shot right through the heart of the Meralco defense to give the Elite a 92-90 lead and the Bolts just 1.8 seconds to reverse the outcome.

Meralco’s Ronjay Buenafe got off a 3-point heave in front of Reil Cervantes at mid-court with the ball falling short at the buzzer.

“Hindi ko na alam,” said Lastimosa when asked whether he was aware of the dying seconds. “Basta binitawan ko na lang; buti pumasok.”

From where he stood in front of the Blackwater bench and with the advantage of hindsight, Isaac said he had little doubt the shot was going in.

“Carlo has been making those kind shots even during his college days at St. Benilde so from the point of release pa lang, tingin ko shoot,” said Isaac.

Lastimosa, nephew of PBA great Jojo Lastimosa, was one of two late substitutions by Isaac that paid off.

The other was Cervantes, who returned to the game with 1:25 left to give Jason Ballesteros a breather. The former Far Eastern Tamaraw hit a huge 3-point shot from the right wing off a Mike Cortez kick-out pass to put the Elite on top, 89-87.

After Cliff Hodge missed two free throws, Lastimosa had a chance to make it a two-possession contest but split his free throws with 14 seconds to go, leaving the door open for the Bolts.

Hodge burst through with a wide-open 3-pointer on the left from a set-up pass by Jimmy Alapag to tie the game, 90-all, 6.6 seconds remaining.

Blackwater called time and an option was made available for Lastimosa to swing the ball to a shooter on the other side. But probably feeling responsible for letting Meralco have a last gasp, Lastimosa opted to take matters into his own.

“I hope this win gives us more confidence from now on,” said Isaac after Blackwater nailed only its fifth win in 36 games overall and first after going 0-of-11 in the 2014 Philippine Cup and 0-2 this conference.

Blackwater led, 55-37, early in the third quarter behind JP Erram and Arellano University rookie Keith Agovida. But Gary David had 9 of his game-high 23 points during the rest of rest of the period and Jared Dillinger 10 of his 15 as the Bolts closed in at 69-63 going to the final 12 minutes.

Ateneo rookie Chris Newsome was ejected with 2:20 left in the second quarter after driving an elbow at the head of Blackwater guard Anjo Caram, while Mike Cortez, traded by the Bolts during the off-season, claimed payback with 12 points, including a jumper with 5:06 left that put his former team behind, 84-77.

His also was the pass that set up Cervantes for his go-ahead triple.

BLACKWATER 92 – Erram 14, Cervantes 12, Cortez 12, Gamalinda 12, Sena 12, Lastimosa 11, Agovida 9, Canada 3, Reyes 3, Ballesteros 2, Dela Cruz 2, Vosotros 0.

MERALCO 90 – David 23, Dillinger 15, Hodge 13, Al-Hussaini 10, Alapag 7, Guevarra 7, Newsome 7, Hugnatan 4, Buenafe 2, Caram 2, Amer 0, Faundo 0, Nabong 0.

Quarters: 26-16, 48-33, 69-63, 92-90. (TITO S. TALAO)