By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno
MANILA – Magnolia caught fire in the third quarter before holding off Meralco, 108-96, in a crucial PBA Commissioner’s Cup game at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City on Sunday night.
The Hotshots exploded for 47 points in the third quarter, the most in a single quarter since 2016 and which outscored their entire first-half output, and repulsed a huge fourth-quarter push from the Bolts.
Paul Lee fired 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-9 on threes, to go with two rebounds and one assist for Magnolia.
The Hotshots moved up to 9-2, a game ahead of Converge and 1.5 games ahead of Ginebra for the second seed, which would mean a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Calvin Abueva added 17 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block, while Nick Rakocevic chipped in 16 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, and one steal.
Magnolia can seal the Top 2 finish if it beats Rain Or Shine in the final game of the elimination round on Friday night, also at PhilSports.
KJ McDaniels made 32 points, nine rebounds, four assists, one steal, and three blocks for the Bolts, whose bid to advance hit a crucial snag as they fell to 4-6.
Meralco’s game on Wednesday also at PhilSports against sister squad NLEX is a virtual knockout game as the loser could be eliminated outright.
The Bolts will then face the San Miguel Beermen two days later.
MAGNOLIA 108 – Lee 27, Abueva 17, Rakocevic 16, Jalalon 12, Sangalang 11, Barroca 11, Dela Rosa 6, Ahanmisi 3, Reavis 2, Corpuz 2, Laput 1, Wong 0, Dionisio 0.
MERALCO 96 – McDaniels 32, Black 16, Quinto 14, Banchero 11, Johnson 9, Almazan 8, Caram 2, Hodge 2, Pascual 2, Maliksi 0, Hugnatan 0, Pasaol 0, Jose 0.
Quarters: 27-21, 46-51, 93-74, 108-96 (PNA)