AN undermanned Meralco maximized its remaining standouts and showed character at crunch time to hack out a 107-104 victory over Phoenix and get back on track in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Already without injured Cliff Hodge, the Bolts missed two playmakers in Baser Amer and Mike Tolomia to national duty, but still delivered the necessary plays and proved steadier down the stretch to register their fifth win in six games.
Allen Durham put up another all-around showing of 33 points, 16 boards, and seven assists, and took over in the clutch to frustrate the Fuel Masters, who dropped a fourth straight game after starting the conference with two wins.
Garvo Lanete provided the most local support with 27 points built around six triples, along with four boards, two assists, and two steals, while Chris Newsome anchored the defense in the absence of Hodge, picking the pocket of Phoenix player an impressive seven times that completed an all-around play with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, eight rebounds, six assists.
“Just an incredible effort from our guys tonight,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “We had to deal with a lot of adversity in this game.”
“We knew we would have to have a big effort for us to win this game,” he added. “We knew some guys would have to play the entire game and they would have to play their best.”
True enough, five Bolts played at least 30 minutes, the most at 43:39 by Durham, who scored on a short jumper that gave his team the lead for good with little over two minutes left after the Fuel Masters made a last rally after giving up a 15-point third quarter lead.
Trailing, 62-77, in the third quarter, the Bolts scored 12 unanswered points early in the fourth quarter to build a 96-87 lead, before the Fuel Masters retaliated with their own 12-3 run to knot the count before Durham took over.
The result spoiled the debut of stand-in Phoenix import Brandon Brown who tallied 38 points and nine boards, as well as that of recent trade acquisition Jeff Chan, who flashed his vintage form and finished with 27 points, five assists, four boards, and four steals.
Brown, though, missed a desperation triple at the buzzer that would’ve sent the game into overtime.
MERALCO 107 – Durham 33, Lanete 27, Newsome 18, Hugnatan 15, Caram 7, Nabong 4, Dillinger 3, Faundo 0, Chua 0, Atkins 0, Sedurifa 0
PHOENIX 104 – Brown 38, Chan 27, J. Wilson 12, Jazul 9, Eriobu 7, Alolino 4, Dehesa 3, Intal 2, Kramer 2, W. Wilson 0, Ababou 0
Quarterscores: 26-19, 48-57, 75-84, 107-104