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Meralco Bolts hold off late rally, send Blackwater Bossing to record 19th straight loss

Blackwater now owns the longest losing streak in PBA history after the playoff-bound Meralco Bolts survived a massive comeback attempt by the Bossing late in a 104-97 win Saturday at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

The Bossing reset the infamous record previously held by Presto/Great Taste in the 1980 season after dropping its final game in this year's All-Filipino conference. At 0-11, the team will exit still in search of its first win since October 17, 2020.

Blackwater's last PBA victory came at the expense of the NLEX Road Warriors in the 2020 "bubble", where the team jumped to a 2-1 start before losing the next eight games.

Presto/Great Taste owned the egregious mark for 41 years when it lost 18 straight games in the 1980 season. The team lost its last nine games of the 1980 Open Conference and then dropped its first nine games of the following All-Filipino Conference.

Blackwater's loss is a huge gain for Meralco, which just improved its chances of securing the second seed and the second twice-to-beat advantage after improving to 7-2 with two more games to go in its schedule.

Allein Maliksi led five Bolts figures in double figures with 21 points and three triples along with 10 rebounds, while Raymond Almazan tallied a double-double of 15 points and 17 rebounds to go with three blocks and three assists.

Reynel Hugnatan and Trevis Jackson added 14 each off the bench, and Bong Quinto threw in 10 and six boards in the hard-earned win.

"Well, we seem to be very focused tonight in the first half. Blackwater played much, much better than the second half and they rallied back against us and we did not play as well in the second half, but we played well enough to win the game," coach Norman Black said in the post-game presser.

"At this point of the season that's all it really matters, if you get as many wins as possible. We still have two more games coming up against NLEX and Ginebra, so winning this game was very, very important for us. Even though it wasn't very pretty in the second half, I'll take it," he added.

The Bossing briefly held the lead in the opening period after a 9-4 start, but Meralco cleaned up its act and outscored their listless counterparts 27-5 the rest of the quarter to take a 31-14 lead as Hugnatan and Belo scored eight each to kickstart the offense.

Meralco remained in control for the most part, though a second half uprising from Blackwater appeared to briefly threaten the Bolts' cruise.

With Meralco leading by 29, 75-46, midway through the third, the Bossing used a 22-2 blast over the next five minutes to trim the lead to nine and stay somewhat within striking distance heading into the fourth.

Blackwater continued to turn up the heat in the payoff period and even pulled within five, 100-95, after a Simon Enciso triple drew the Bossing closer with 1:49 remaining, but Meralco had enough in the tank to turn back its foes down the stretch and pull out the win.

An Anjo Caram triple restored the lead to eight in the following possession, then Meralco came up with huge stops after Nino Canaleta scored following that Caram triple to hang on in the final minute.

Meralco has two more games against NLEX (5-5) and defending champion Barangay Ginebra (4-6). Both matchups present opportunities to move closer to the No. 2 seed.

The Bolts, however, are hoping they get back Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge, as well as reserve big man Raymar Jose, in the coming week. The trio are still under the league's health and safety protocols.

"We were off for a couple of weeks, so we lost a little bit of our conditioning during that time. We're still trying to get that conditioning back now. At the same time, we're still missing three players, two starters basically. So hopefully we'll get Newsome, Toto and Cliff Hodge back as quickly as possible, and they'll be able to play in our next game," Black remarked.

The Bossing were led by 15 points from Canaleta, Mike Tolomia and Richard Escoto in the loss.

Enciso added 14 and three triples to go with four dimes, while Joshua Torralba chipped in 12.

THE SCORES

Meralco 104 -- Maliksi 21, Almazan 15, Jackson 14, Hugnatan 14, Quinto 10, Belo 8, Caram 8, Pasaol 7, Baclao 6, Jamito 1, Pinto 0.

Blackwater 97 -- Canaleta 15, Tolomia 15, Escoto 15, Enciso 14, Torralba 12, Daquioag 9, Magat 8, Cruz 4, Golla 3, Dennison 2, Desiderio 0.

Quarters: 31-14, 61-38, 85-71, 104-97.

EXTRA DRIBBLES

- Meralco had a massive advantage on the glass against Blackwater, 59-34.

- Tolomia was the only Blackwater player to have a positive plus-minus rating after finishing +5 against Meralco.

NEXT GAMES

- Meralco vs. NLEX and Barangay Ginebra next week; schedule to be released on Tuesday