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NLEX stays alive, ousts Meralco

After pulling off a huge victory over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, NLEX downed another giant in Meralco as it completed a come-from-behind 92-81 triumph in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday at the Philsports Arena.

With the win, NLEX kept its flickering playoff hopes alive as it ended its elimination round campaign with a 5-7 win-loss record.

NLEX’s victory likewise shut the door on Meralco’s playoff hopes as the Bolts absorbed their seventh loss in 11 games. The Bolts will not be making the playoffs for the first time since the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup.

Meralco is the second team from the MVP Group of Companies to get eliminated together with TNT Tropang Giga, while Terrafirma and Blackwater also got the boot.

The Road Warriors, however, will need to wait for the last elimination round game of Rain or Shine on the last scheduled play date on Friday before they could formalize their entry to the next round.

NLEX is praying for the Elasto Painters to lose to Magnolia to salvage a playoff for the eighth and final slot in the quarterfinal round.

A Rain or Shine win, on the other hand, would practically eliminate the Road Warriors.

For NLEX coach Frankie Lim and import Earl Clark, climbing back from a 57-39 deficit at the end of the first half showed their determination to keep their campaign going.

“Coach got into our heads and told us that we need to play like there’s no tomorrow,” Clark said.

“We were playing like it’s just the beginning of the season. That it wasn’t a do-or-die game. We answered the call.”

Lim admitted that his blood pressure nearly went up following a lackadaisical showing from his troops in the first 24 minutes of play.

“I started screaming at them at half time. I didn’t have fun and my blood pressure nearly went up,” Lim said.

“I just made them realize that they were not playing at par with our rival. Things got better in the third quarter when we started having stops.”

Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser turned the heat in the third period as he worked double time on both ends of the court.

He knocked in seven of his 10 points in the third period, while also making things difficult for Meralco import K.J. McDaniels, whose production was limited all game long.

NLEX held Meralco to only 14 points in the third period, holding it down to just 25 percent shooting from the field. The Road Warriors even came more locked up defensively in the fourth quarter, holding their rivals to only 10 markers and 5-of-22 shooting.

“All I asked for my team is to be decent on defense and if we play good defense, it could trigger our offense,” Lim said.

“They enjoyed running. They enjoyed the offense and it’s a reward for them from making stops. That’s what happened in the second half.”

Offensively, Clark practically took over, scoring 25 of his 40 points in the second half while also pulling down 11 rebounds and blocking two shots.

Lim believes his team is now playing much better as it slowly getting its core players complete.

“We never had a chance to be complete for the most part and now that we’re slowly but surely getting complete, we’re getting better,” said Lim as his team just completed back-to-back victories.

The Scores:

NLEX 92 – Clark 40, Trollano 16, Ganuelas-Rosser 10, Chua 6, Alas 6, Rosales 6, Varilla 5, Miranda 3, Nieto 0

MERALCO 81 – McDaniels 22, Black 17, Maliksi 12, Quinto 8, Hodge 8, Banchero 7, Caram 5, Jose 2, Pascual 0

QUARTERS: 23-30, 39-57, 64-71, 92-81

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