MAHINDRA showed up with its guns blazing yesterday and razed Meralco to the ground in their battle for survival in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Philip Paniamogan came off the bench and sank his first eight shots, including six from deep, to finish with a career-high 25 points and lead the Floodbuster to their second straight win and first in four meetings with the Bolts since the last conference.
Paniamogan laced his performance with seven triples while Jason Deutchman, Russell Escoto, Mark Yee and Nico Salva also connected from beyond the arc as Mahindra wound up making 21 three-point shots that proved too much for Meralco.
“I really feel like we had our shooters going today,” said Floodbuster shot-caller Chris Gavina after his side followed up its 97-93 overtime win over Blackwater last Christmas, its first since a 0-5 start.
“I call that ‘Miracle on Christmas,’” added Gavina, whose team fought back from 15 points down in regulation against the Elite before taking full charge in the extension. “That gave us the confidence to believe we can win.”
Gavina also dedicated the win to the wife of team consultant Joe Lipa, Ging, who is fighting cancer. “This is a big dedication to her. I hope it uplifts her spirits,” he said.
While Mahindra finally got out of the cellar with a 2-5 card, Meralco absorbed it fifth straight loss and dropped to 2-6 overall.
Reynel Hugnatan equaled his career high with 28 points, Chris Newsome added 19 points and eight assists and Baser Amer had 12 points, but the Bolts had little answer when their opponents started really going in the second period.
Meralco failed to match Mahindra’s pace when the latter played small ball and failed to find too many openings when the Floodbuster switched to a taller lineup.
The difference even stood at 17 points twice, the last at 86-69, and Meralco would come no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
To highlight Mahindra’s dominance, Deutchman even boomed in a trey to peg a 92-79 count, but had to leave the game for good due to cramps on his left leg.
Mike Digregorio strung up five straight points, practically sealing the deal 101-85, only 1:55 to go.
The win did not come without a cost as Yee was ejected for a flagrant foul-penalty 2 against Amer, still 7:07 left in the third period. Amer was also taken out a little while later after Meralco closed in at 53-63.