RAYMOND Almazan made key plays late in the fourth quarter to lift Meralco to a come-from-behind 98-92 win over reigning champion Magnolia on Saturday in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Almazan buried the go-ahead triple as the Bolts came back from 16 points down to take down the Hotshots in the first game of their title defense.
Almazan hit the triple at the 2:17 mark of the fourth, breaking a deadlock at 92 as the Bolts held the Hotshots scoreless in the last four minutes of the game.
The Meralco big man was also solid on the defensive end with key rebounds and stops to finish the match with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
“It’s a good start to the conference for us,” said Meralco coach Norman Black. “Very, very satisfying win because we are going up against the defending champions. We also knew that they are a very good defensive team and we needed to play good defense to beat them.
“I thought our defense really kicked in in the fourth quarter. We were able to slow them down and stop them on a lot of plays that made a difference in the game,” said Black.
Chris Newsome topscored for Meralco with 22 points while also grabbing 10 rebounds, as Allen Durham also had a double-double of 21 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists.
The loss was a stunning start to the Hotshots, who led 49-33 in the second half only to miss all their shots late in the game after leading 92-86 with 4:35 left on the clock.
Romeo Travis had 22 points and nine rebounds, and Paul Lee tallied 20 points for the Hotshots in their first outing of the conference.
Meralco 98 – Newsome 22, Durham 21, Almazan 19, Pinto 9, Faundo 8, Amer 7, Salva 4, Quinto 3, Hugnatan 3, Caram 2.
Magnolia 92 – Travis 22, Lee 20, Barroca 18, Simon 12, Sangalang 11, Pingris 4, Melton 3, Jalalon 2, Reavis 0, Dela Rosa 0.
Quarterscores: 27-30; 48-57; 73-75; 98-92.