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Bolts trip Fuel Masters, end skid

Chris Newsome of Meralco and Willy Wilson of Phoenix race for the loose ball during their game in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Jun Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines — Meralco, though still heavily undermanned, gained some relief last night, checking a three-game slump with a 92-90 decision over Phoenix Petroleum that kept the Bolts’ flickering playoff hopes alive in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Garvo Lanete, AJ Caram and Jason Ballesteros stepped up as Meralco hung on to dear life with a third win against six losses.

The Fuel Masters rallied from 16 points down and had a chance to steal the game but Jeff Chan missed his three-point attempt at the buzzer. Phoenix dropped to eighth place at 4-5.

“We treated the game like a championship game this conference because, for us, it’s really like a championship. We lost and we’re out,” said Meralco coach Norman Black.

GlobalPort overwhelmed TNT KaTropa with tremendous hustle plays and fashioned out a wire-to-wire 99-84 win to move two notches up to seventh place later in the night.

“TNT was playing three games in a week. We said we take advantage of that. We kept on pushing the ball and we played aggressively and very physical on defense,” said GlobalPort coach Pido Jarencio.

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The Texters struggled all night and dropped from seventh to ninth spot with six losses against four wins. They must win their last game versus the NLEX Road Warriors on Feb. 28 to have a shot at a playoff berth.

“And even with the win, there’s still a chance we’ll not make it. We have to give everything against Ginebra Sunday.”

Lanete poured in a personal season high 24 points, Ballesteros grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds while Cliff Hodge put in 17 markers before hurting his left knee late in the third quarter as they beat the Fuel Masters in a hard-fought ball game.

Caram played quality minutes and was the one Black played at endgame instead of lead point guard Baser Amer. The Meralco second-string playmaker scored nine points and added one assist and one steal.

“I’m happy for my guys they stayed in there to fight to the very end. We really had to dig deep. And it takes a lot of will power to say ‘no it’s not gonna happen again,’” said Black as his troops avoided what could have been another disastrous finish.

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