By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
With 1:25 left in the final quarter and the Magnolia Hotshots leading by ten points against the Meralco Bolts, everyone thought that it would be another walk in the park for the undefeated team.
However, disaster struck.
The resilient and determined Meralco squad put up one of the most dramatic PBA comebacks of the season to stun Magnolia, 95-94, after star guard Chris Newsome nailed the game-winning layup to seal the deal.
An emphatic 11-1 closing run in the last one minute of the ball game broke the hearts of the Hotshots as the Norman Black-led squad played with poise and disciplined defense to shut down the league’s no. 1 team and gave them their first loss of the Philippine Cup.
After Alvin Pasaol converted an off the curl trey to cut the lead to seven, everything just fell in favor of Meralco in the next sequence of plays.
Meralco forced a turnover in the next possession after Mac Belo stole the inbound pass of Rome dela Rosa for a quick deuce.
Now with the lead trimmed to five, the Bolts knew they were still in the ball game and turned up the pressure on defense.
Calvin Abueva would score a single free throw in the next possession with 51 seconds left but Belo came back after drawing a foul and sank his two shots from the charity stripe.
Down four with 35 seconds left, Meralco once again forced a Magnolia turnover that led to a huge three-point shot by Newsome to trim the lead to just one.
Magnolia wasn’t able to capitalize in the next possession as Mark Barroca’s shot was ruled not counted which gave Meralco six seconds to operate and generate the game-winning shot.
Black then designed an isolation play for Newsome in the left elbow where he took dela Rosa to school and drove past him for the buzzer-beating layup.
The Bolts were led by Belo’s 22 huge points backstopped by veterans Cliff Hodge with 18 and Newsome with 14 while the stunned Magnolia team had 21 points from Lee and 18 from Abueva.