By JONAS TERRADO
Meralco outlasted Magnolia Pambansang Manok, 81-75, in a dragged-out defensive battle to tie their PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series at 1-1 Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Bolts kept their lead intact during a fourth quarter that saw both teams struggling to find baskets and eventually complete a bounce-back performance after dropping the opener despite a 16-point lead in the first half.
Import Tony Bishop redeemed himself by scoring 22 points and grabbing 14 rebounds to help Meralco turn the short series into a best-of-three.
His jumper with under four minutes left in the contest gave Meralco some breathing room at 73-68. It was one of the rare field goal conversions made in the final 12 minutes as the Bolts went 3-of-14 while Magnolia was 5-of-20.
Chris Newsome scored 18 points, Aaron Black came off the bench to produce 14 points, six rebounds and four assists while Chris Banchero added 10 points and four rebounds.
Game 3 is set Sunday at the same venue, with both teams expected to endure another cagey affair in their bids to grab a 2-1 lead.
Mike Harris posted 25 points and 17 rebounds but the Hotshots import couldn’t lead his team to another win.
Paul Lee was the only other Magnolia player in double figures with 10 points on a 3-of-16 clip.
Meralco led by a high of 10 points early in the third, 55-45, after a Newsome basket but Magnolia slowly cut into the deficit and eventually tied the score at 66-all, three minutes in the fourth, on a corner three by Rome de la Rosa.
Newsome answered with a triple, eight minutes left, for a 69-66 lead, and the two teams began to flaunt their defense that resulted in miss after miss on both sides of the floor.
Magnolia got to within a point, 69-68, on Harris’ layup with under six minutes left and it another long drought before Black sank two foul shots to stretch Meralco’s gap to three.
Another dryspell followed that lasted until Bishop’s left-elbow shot from 18 feet gave Meralco that 73-68 advantage.
Five free throws made and a Bong Quinto layup made it 80-72 for Meralco before Magnolia cut it to five on Adrian Wong’s triple, 50 seconds left.
But the Hotshots would later be up in arms when officials missed a shot clock violation on the Bolts after replays showed that Bishop’s long two didn’t hit the far end of the rim.
Meralco retained possession with a fresh shot clock and Black was later fouled and split his two charities for the final count.
MERALCO 81 — Bishop 22, Newsome 18, Black 14, Banchero 10, Maliksi 6, Almazan 5, Hugnatan 3, Quinto 2, Jose 1, Hodge 0, Caram 0, Baclao 0.
MAGNOLIA 75 — Harris 25, Lee 10, Sangalang 9, Abueva 9, Dela Rosa 7, Jalalon 6, Corpuz 3, Barroca 3, Wong 3, Dionisio 0, Reavis 0.
Quarters: 20-15, 42-37, 66-61, 81-75.