Allein Maliksi knocked two triples down the stretch that gave the Bolts a needed cushion to prevent the Hotshots from marching their way to the finals and extend the best-of-seven affair to a sixth game.
Nards Pinto and Raymond Almazan, back after missing the last two games due to a sprained left ankle, also came up big for the Bolts despite Chris Newsome being disqualified for six fouls with 7:10 to go in the fourth and Magnolia holding an 85-79 lead when play resumed.
“We kinda have our backs against the wall and there is no tomorrow for us,” said Meralco coach Norman Black. “It was a very gutsy performance by my players and they battled the entire game.
“We also fought the Magnolia team on a good night. They played well and they played to go out and shut us off already into eliminating us. But we stood our ground. We made some big shots down the stretch which was very, very important. We kept our composure and we gave ourselves a chance to get back in the series,” he added.
Game 6 is set at 6 p.m. Friday night, with Black hoping to have another inspiring performance from his crew.
Averaging just 5.3 points in the first four games of the semis, Maliksi stepped up and delivered a conference-high 29 points aided by seven three-pointers.
Maliksi scored nine in a row for Meralco, beginning with three free throws off a Paul Lee foul that broke a 90-all tie with 3:28 remaining.
A sequence of missed attempts by both sides ended when Maliksi drained a three near the two-minute mark to make it 96-90 for the Bolts.
Calvin Abueva answered with a three of his own for Magnolia, but Maliksi once again came through by knocking down another long tom for a 99-93 Meralco advantage, 1:20 remaining.
Abueva again made a triple before intercepting an inbound pass to give Magnolia a chance to tie or reduce its three-point deficit.
But Jio Jalalon missed a layup before Almazan, whose presence all game was huge, came up with the rebound and got fouled with 10 seconds.
Almazan split his two charities before the Hotshots threatened anew with a Barroca lob to Abueva off an inbound, 7.4 to go, to trim the Bolts’ lead to 100-98.
But Almazan slammed the door shut on Magnolia when he made two foul shots on the ensuing possession.
Almazan had nine points and 10 rebounds while Pinto scored a career-high 24 points to continue his impressive showing for most of the series. Newsome finished with 23 points before fouling out.
Mark Barroca, whose wife gave birth to their third child the other day, played inspired for Magnolia with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists, but those numbers weren’t enough to avoid defeat.
MERALCO 102 — Maliksi 29, Pinto 24, Newsome 23, Almazan 9, Hugnatan 6, Hodge 4, Belo 4, Quinto 3, Pasaol 0, Caram 0, Jackson 0.
MAGNOLIA 98 — Barroca 25, Abueva 19, Sangalang 15, Lee 13, Jalalon 12, Ahanmisi 8, Reavis 6, Dionisio 0, Corpuz 0, Dela Rosa 0.
Quarters: 23-33, 45-47, 69-71, 102-98.
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