Nabong the unlikely hero as Bolts survive TNT in overtime
Paul Lintag on Jun 07, 2017 10:28 PM
With import Alex Stepheson fouling out, Kelly Nabong emerged as the unlikely hero for Meralco in overtime, pouring seven of his 15 points including the free throws that gave the Bolts some much-needed separation against TNT.
Meralco will live to fight another day.
The Bolts managed to avoid elimination in the 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup, scoring a narrow 103-100 overtime win over TNT in Game 2 of their quarterfinals series Wednesday at the Big Dome.
Despite losing a 19-point lead and going scoreless in the final 5:50 of regulation, the Bolts found enough offense in extra time to hold off the KaTropa, forcing a deciding Game 3 set for Friday.
With import Alex Stepheson fouling out, Kelly Nabong emerged as the unlikely hero for Meralco in overtime, pouring seven of his 15 points including the free throws that gave the Bolts some much-needed separation.
"We played much better tonight than we did last game. I thought we really gutted it out in the end especially since my import was in foul trouble for majority of the game," head coach Norman Black said.
"I have to give a lot of credit to the locals for stepping up in this game. Special mention also goes to Kelly Nabong for stepping up and making his foul shots when the game was on the line in overtime," he added.
With point guard Baser Amer playing the game of his life, Meralco got off to an electrifying start, establishing a 19-point lead right in the opening period, 29-10.
The KaTropa would issue a response in the second quarter and kept the game close all throughout the second half before Amer turned it up again in the fourth to give the Bolts a 92-81 advantage with less than six minutes to go.
That basket proved to be the final one for Meralco in regulation as TNT dropped 11 unanswered to tie things up at 92-all and force overtime.
In the extra session, Chris Newsome made up for his missed game winner and regulation and buried a clutch pullup jumper over Jayson Castro for a 100-97 lead with 22 seconds left. Nabong then made three of his four free throws to seal the Meralco victory.
Amer dropped a career-high 32 points for the Bolts in the series-tying win while Nabong and Cliff Hodge added 15 apiece. Jared Dilligner and Newsome both scored 12 points.
Import Joshua Smith and Kelly Williams carried the fight for the no. 4 KaTropa and finished with 18 and 16 points respectively.
Game 3 is set for Friday also at the Big Dome with the winner advancing to a best-of-5 semifinal series against no. 1 Ginebra.
MERALCO 103 - Amer 32, Hodge 15, Nabong 15, Newsome 12, Dillinger 12, Stepheson 7, Hugnatan 7, Uyloan 3, Yeo 0.
TNT 100 - Smith 18, Williams 16, Garcia 14, Castro 12, Semerad 10, Pogoy 9, Rosario 7, Reyes 5, Rosales 5, Tautuaa 4.
Quarterscores: 32-13, 49-44, 79-73, 92-92, 103-100.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8