Meralco snuffed out a feisty NLEX rally on Sunday to carve out a 97-94 victory and improve to 4-1 in the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) Commissioner’s Cup.

But both game hero Chris Banchero and coach Luigi Trillo could hardly celebrate the Bolts’ victory at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.

“I don’t know, it’s hard to really think about anything right now,” Banchero said with a long face and a somber tone in the postgame presser, still reeling from a suspected Achilles tear that plucked Su Braimoh Jr. from the game with 3:55 remaining.

“It’s painful to see a guy like that [go down]. A good character and a perfect fit for us. Seeing him like that just hurts. It takes a bit of the win [from] us. Hopefully, we can get more results once we have X-rays done. But he heard something pop,” added Trillo.

Braimoh Jr., has been steady for Meralco thus far, averaging 31.5 points and 13 rebounds before Sunday’s match. He had a game-best 38 points along with eight rebounds before leaving the floor.

Big lead blown

If not for Banchero’s bold go-ahead floater with two ticks left and Bong Quinto’s game-sealing freebie, Meralco would’ve gone home with a double black eye, squandering a game where it enjoyed leads as many as 29 points.

“I think everybody on the team can agree that we had a terrible second half. We gave up way too many baskets. Coach said we gave up 60 in the second half which is not going to win us any games,” said Banchero, who finished with 15 points.

“We need to be able to put two good halves together. It feels good to get out here with the win, but we just didn’t play good basketball in the second half, giving them a chance in the end. We have to be better than that, and I know we are.”

Now, Meralco will be dealing with just one problem—which is replacing Braimoh Jr. should the import’s tests turn out to be for the worse.

The Bolts are facing a tough stretch to end their elimination round schedule, playing, in this order dangerous NorthPort next, desperate Converge, defending champion Barangay Ginebra and early leaders Magnolia and Phoenix Super LPG before wrapping up against Terrafirma.

While the Bolts have EASL (East Asia Super League’s) imports Prince Ibeh and Zach Lofton at their disposal, Ibeh has been measured over the height limit, while Lofton is severely undersized against the imports of opposing teams.

“We’ll have to reevaluate,” Trillo said. “We might have to consider Zach, or keep an open mind [as] we’ll have to look for another import with Su’s size.”

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NLEX, which dropped to 2-4, drew 24 points each from import Stokley Chaffee Jr. and Don Trollano. INQ

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