BIÑAN, Laguna — Yousef Taha was right there in the heat of the action in six straight important plays at endgame, seizing the spotlight as Purefoods Star sustained its hot run and closed in on the leaders in the PBA Philippine Cup with a key 77-74 win over Meralco at the Alonte Sports Arena here Sunday.
Taha converted three tough baskets and made stops on the other end in a crucial blitzkrieg in a tight, seesawing game that propelled the Hotshots to sixth place with a 4-3 win-loss card.
Taha and his teammates overcame a dry spell in the third quarter and moved past the Meralco Bolts (4-4) and the GlobalPort Batang Pier (4-4) in the team standings with a third straight win and their fourth in their last five outings.
On their own crucial stops, the Bolts found an opportunity to force overtime, but Jared Dillinger missed a three-point attempt with two seconds left.
Mark Macapagal grabbed the loose ball but couldn’t launch his own attempt with Marc Pingris all over the Meralco gunner.
Purefoods thus preserved Taha’s sterling effort, easily his finest since joining the league in 2012, coming from the Mapua camp in the NCAA.
Taha, who has bounced around four teams in three years in the pros, went 6-of-7 from the field as he matched his career high 14 points and also came through with nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 27 minutes of action.
PJ Simon and Mark Barroca had their shining moments as they fired 18 and 16 points, respectively.
The two provided the spark as the Hotshots recovered from their third-quarter slump, rallying from 52-59 down to move ahead at 66-65.
Then Taha took over, sparkling in a decisive run that gave Purefoods a 74-67 lead with 1:19 left to play.
The Hotshots also enjoyed a seven-point lead at the half but the Bolts made a huge 14-point turnaround and had their own seven-point spread at the end of the third.
But the Bolts couldn’t hang on, suffering a fourth defeat in their last six games. (SB)
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