MARK Macapagal sparked a much-needed late-game blitz by Meralco as the Bolts booted Manny Pacquiao and KIA Motors out of playoff contention in the PBA Philippine Cup, 99-93, on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts blew a commanding 22-point lead following a spirited Sorento rally in the third period that saw the expansion franchise even grab the upperhand , 72-71, following LA Revilla’s three-point shot late in the quarter.
But Macapagal came to the Bolts’ rescue as he suddenly found his range from beyond the arc in the final quarter, sparking a pivotal run that allowed Meralco to seize control once more, 89-83.
Reil Cervantes and Jopher Custodio drained two big three-pointers in the final two minutes in a last-ditch effort to will KIA back to the game. But Sean Anthony split from the foul line, and Cliff Hodge scored on an emphatic dunk to seal Meralco’s fifth win in 10 games.
The victory allowed the Bolts to tie GlobalPort for seventh to eighth spots, while giving Meralco’s sister team NLEX a free ride to the playoffs.
The Road Warriors, currently at 3-7, will play the Sorento (1-9) in a no-bearing elimination round contest on Sunday.
“When they took the lead in the fourth quarter, I told them during one of the timeouts that we have two choices here: we let this (game) go because we already messed up by allowing them to come back from a 20-point deficit, or we play composed in the game,” said Meralco coach Norman Black after the game.
“They responded well and regained control of the game.”
The Bolts led by as many as 63-41 early in the third canto of a game that saw Pacquiao, the greatest Filipino boxer of all-time, played for the Sorento for the first time since the team’s 80-66 come-from-behind win over Blackwater during the season opener in Bulacan.
The 35-year-old Pacquiao started the game for the Sorento, but went scoreless. He had two missed three-point attempts, to go along with two rebounds, one foul and one turnover in 6:30 minutes on the floor.
The boxing champion then spent the rest of the game on the sideline, providing the inspiration for a KIA side that gave the Bolts a big scare before coming short in the end and absorbed its ninth straight loss for a 1-9 record.
Jared Dillinger led Meralco with 25 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, while Cliff Hodge added 17 and 10 boards.
Cervantes topscored for KIA with 18 points, with Eloy Poligrates, playing in his first game since being traded by NLEX, adding 11.
MERALCO (99) -- Dillinger 25, Hodge 17, Anthony 14, Wilson 11, David 10, Macapagal 8, Morrison 4, Cortez 3, Ferriols 3, Ildefonso 2, Sena 2, Buenafe 0, Guevarra 0.
KIA MOTORS (93) -- Cervantes 18, Poligrates 11, Revilla 10, Bagatsing 10, Thiele 9, Alvarez 8, Pascual 8, Dehesa 7, Custodio 6, Webb 4, Burtscher 3, Pacquiao 0, Buensuceso 0.
Quarterscores: 34-19; 60-39; 73-72; 99-93.