With Reynel Hugnatan’s go-ahead jumper in the dying seconds of Game 4 and Raymond Almazan’s game-winning block, the Meralco Bolts sent its Philippine Basketball Association semifinal series against the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Gin Kings to a deciding game with a nail-biting 83-80 win on Wednesday night at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Off the bench, Hugnatan top all scorers with a conference-high 19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and a 3-of-4 clip from three. He scored the majority of his points in the crucial 4th quarter. Cliff Hodge and Chris Newsome chipped in 16 points apiece.
Meanwhile, Almazan, who has been battling injuries all conference long, tallied 11 points, on top of 3 rebounds and one crucial block that sealed the match for the Bolts.
“I’m sure the players are very, very happy to get a chance to go into Game 5 and get a chance to go to the finals. Of course, it’s going to be a tough task against Ginebra to beat them in Game 5, but at the same time, we just have to go back and watch the game to figure out what it’s gonna take to get the job done,” said Meralco head coach Norman Black.
With 15 seconds left on the clock, Hugnatan scored a jumper off a Newsome feed as Meralco recovered from the Gin Kings’ second-half onslaught that put them at the cusp of clinching the best-of-five series. Almazan then saved the game after blocking Stanley Pringle’s follow-up leading to Newsome’s dagger layup.
Hoping his ward can repeat the same feat done versus the five-time defending champions and fourth-seeded San Miguel Beermen (SMB) in the quarterfinals, Black said: “The challenge going to the next game is to be a little ahead of them. So far, we’ve always been reacting. Just like in our battle with San Miguel, we have to win two games to move to the next stage. We’re halfway through.”
“We had a lot of guys coming in and playing their roles. As long as our guys can play their roles, we’ll have a chance,” added Black.
On top of seven rebounds, six assists, and two steals, Ginebra’s top gun Pringle had 18 points in the loss. Veterans LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar were held scoreless in the first two quarters.
Meralco vs Ginebra
Quarters: 26-21; 44-31; 60-64; 83-80.
Bolts (83) – Hugnatan 19, Hodge 16, Newsome 16, Almazan 11, Maliksi 8, Amer 4, Pinto 3, Black 2, Quinto 2, Jamito 2, Jackson 0, Caram 0.
Gin Kings (80) – Pringle 18, Dillinger 15, Thompson 13, Aguilar 12, Tenorio 8, Caperal 8, Mariano 6, Tolentino 0, Devance 0.