The Meralco Bolts stayed in the race to the quarterfinals after stopping the streaking San Miguel Beermen, 95-91, in the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Powered by Delroy James, Meralco halted its five-game skid to earn the right to face Alaska for a knockout battle for eighth place, effectively knocking Phoenix out of contention.
San Miguel, on the other hand, saw its three-game streak come to an end. The Beermen (5-6) now await the result of the game between Magnolia and TNT later. They will face Blackwater in a best-of-three affair if the Hotshots win, or take on NorthPort with a twice-to-win disadvantage if the KaTropa win.
"It was a game we really needed, we needed it very badly to stay alive," said Meralco coach Norman Black. "Hats off to Blackwater for giving us a chance when they beat Alaska last game. Good effort from my players today offensively, defensively. I think a lot of guys stepped up for us."
James, who topped with 34 points, five rebounds, six assists, and four steals, finally won on his third try with the Bolts. He closed out the game with six consecutive points for his team.
Chris Newsome conspired with James to put Meralco ahead in the third quarter. He also sparked their late run in the fourth that halted June Mar Fajardo's takeover for San Miguel. Newsome finished with 20 points, six rebounds, and four assists.
Chris McCullough and Fajardo led the Beermen in the loss with 27 points each and a combined 29 rebounds. Unfortunately, they also accounted for 15 of the team's 22 turnovers.
The Bolts now turn their attention to their crucial do-or-die game against the Aces on Friday.
"It's better to have life than be dead. Even in real life, that's just the way that it is," said Black. "We get to live another day to fight Alaska. I know it's gonna be a tough game for us but at least we have a chance for a playoff now."
Meralco (95) - James 34, Newsome 20, Almazan 15, Faundo 10, Amer 8, Jackson 3, Quinto 3, Hodge 2, Salva 0, De Ocampo 0.
San Miguel (91) - McCullough 27, Fajardo 27, Romeo 11, Standhardinger 9, Santos 6, Lassiter 3, Pessumal 3, Nabong 3, Ross 2, Ganuelas-Rosser 0.
Quarters: 22-21, 42-42, 74-70, 95-91.
- Meralco took advantage of San Miguel's turnover-prone ways, scoring 29 points off their opponent's errors.
- Prior to this loss, Chris McCullough has led San Miguel to three straight wins since he came in to replace Charles Rhodes.
- Meralco's win ensured a Manila Clasico quarterfinals as it handed Magnolia the fifth seed, regardless of the result of the Hotshots' game against TNT. Ginebra has secured the fourth seed even prior to its last elimination round game.
Meralco - July 19 (Friday) vs Alaska at the Mall of Asia Arena