By Michael Angelo S. Murillo. Senior Reporter

The Meralco Bolts defeated the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 85-78, on Thursday at the Angeles University Foundation Arena in Pampanga to fan their top-four push in the PBA Philippine Cup.

Meralco capitalized on a third-quarter explosion where it outscored ROS, 28-7, to create a considerable cushion which it used to hold off its opponent and book its fifth win as opposed to three losses in the Philippine Basketball Association All-Filipino tournament.

Earlier in the day, the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok chalked up their third straight win with a 103-89 victory over winless Terrafirma Dyip to improve to 4-4.

The Meralco-Rain or Shine match was tight in the opening half.

The Elasto Painters, towed by veteran James Yap, were narrowly up, 28-27, at the end of the first quarter before the Bolts had some headway in the second to squeeze their way to a 46-44 advantage at the break.

The third quarter was to be telling as ROS could not get its offense going and it was something Meralco would take full advantage of.

Baser Amer and Bong Quinto keyed the Bolts’ run in the period that had them on top 74-51 in the end.

But the Elasto Painters were not to go down without a fight.

Rookies Adrian Wong and Vince Tolentino were given the chance to play and had an impact, helping their team to narrow its deficit to just six points, 82-76, with 50 seconds to go.

They would not go nearer after that though, leaving Meralco to close out things.

Chris Newsome led the Bolts with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists with Mr. Amer finishing with 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Forty-two-year-old Reynel Hugnatan, meanwhile, had 13 markers.

For Rain or Shine (4-3), which has now lost two straight, it was Mr. Yap who was the high point man with 18, with Beau Belga and Norbert Torres adding 11 points each.

With the win, Meralco moved to a share for fourth place as of publication time.  

Meanwhile, in the first game, Magnolia used a strong second-half charge to outlast Terrafirma and pad its push in the Philippine Cup. 

Paul Lee led the way for the Hotshots, who trailed early in the opening half, with 29 points, going 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.

Rome Dela Rosa and Ian Sangalang came off the bench to score 17 and 16 points, respectively. The latter also added 10 rebounds to his tally.

The win pushed Magnolia to solo eighth place, with three games remaining in its elimination round schedule.

For Terrafirma, which slumped to its seventh loss in as many games, it was CJ Perez who top-scored with 19 points, followed by Reden Celda (16) and Eric Camson (14).

Magnolia next plays Rain or Shine on Nov. 7 while Terrafirma takes on the Blackwater Elite on Nov. 6.