Meralco stuns SMB to clinch top seed, leaving sixth-seeded Beermen uphill climb in grand slam bid
Allen Durham and the Bolts hold a twice-to-beat advantage over No. 8 Blackwater. Jerome Ascano

MERALCO gave San Miguel Beer a dose of its own medicine, showing championship poise at crunch time to pull off a stunning 104-101 win on Sunday night and clinch top seed in the PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinals.

The Bolts climbed out of an 18-point third-quarter hole, leaning on Allen Durham down the stretch to squeeze out the victory in front of a sizeable crowd at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The Bolts finished the eliminations with nine wins in 11 games to enter the playoffs with a twice-to-beat edge against eighth seed Blackwater.

The result also relegated the Beermen to sixth spot, facing an uphill climb in their grand slam bid as they face twice-to-beat defending champion Ginebra in the first round.

“That was just a great second half,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “It’s more about making adjustments.”

“It’s not about the past, but just focusing on the moment,” he added as he Bolts beat the Beermen for the first time since the 2015 Governors’ Cup. “I don’t think my players are even aware that we hadn’t beaten them in two years.”

Durham scattered 35 points, 13 boards, eight assists, two blocks, and one steal in almost 44 minutes, highlighting another impressive all-around performance with a putback off his own miss that gave the Bolts the lead for good at 102-101 with 28 seconds left after his team trailed by as many as 71-53 in the third quarter.

The reigning Best Import then sealed the deal by burying two charities as Alex Cabagnot’s last gasp three-point attempt clanged out at the buzzer.

Jared Dillinger and Baser Amer also shone down the stretch for the Bolts, each hitting a three-pointer that kept their team within striking distance.

June Mar Fajardo led the Beermen with 26 points and eight boards, but committed a late turnover and allowed a layup conversion by Durham on the other end that put the Bolts up, 100-98, with 59 seconds to go, before Chris Ross knocked down a trey to give SMB its last taste of the lead.

 

The scores:

MERALCO 104 – Durham 35, Dillinger 16, Newsome 14, Amer 13, Hodge 8, Tolomia 8, De Ocampo 6, Nabong 2, Hugnatan 2, Lanete 0

SMB 101 – Fajardo 26, Lassiter 18, Watson 18, Cabagnot 16, Ross 10, Santos 6, Rosser 4, Espinas 3, Heruela 0

Quarterscores: 19-32, 39-51, 69-81, 104-101

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos