THE real Meralco finally showed up when it mattered most as it dispatched Blackwater, 104-96, on Thursday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to advance to the semifinals of the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The Bolts saw another worthy challenge from the upset-conscious Elite, but displayed character down the stretch to validate their status as the top seeds and arrange a Final Four duel versus Star.
Baser Amer bounced back from their loss last Tuesday where he was held to just eight points after suffering an early minor injury, scattering 31 points, one shy of his career-high, four boards, three assists in almost 39 minutes of play, and the W - a fitting birthday present a day before he turns 25.
Allen Durham, for his part, willed his way back after hurting his right ankle early in the fourth quarter as he finished with 18 points, 20 rebounds, and came one assist shy of a triple-double in 39 minutes.
“My guys showed a lot of heart,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “We really had to find direction because it seemed like we were dead in the water.”
Jared Dillinger and Garvo Lanete lived up to being the Bolts’ floor-spacers, draining five treys each, with Dillinger’s last triple off a Durham kick-out pass proving to be the dagger as it gave them a 104-94 lead with a little over a minute left.
Ranidel de Ocampo also scored in double digits, but it was his defense on Henry Walker that cooled the Elite import down after a hot first half.
The prolific Walker scored just seven points in the second half after scattering 27 markers in the first two quarters that ended with the Elite having their biggest lead at 12.
It was the Bolts’ turn to heat up from beyond the arc after intermission where they also tightened their defensive screws to turn the game around.
The Bolts and the Hotshots begin their best-of-five semifinal series on Sunday at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna.
MERALCO 104 – Amer 31, Durham 18, Lanete 17, Dillinger 15, De Ocampo 14, Newsome 7, Hodge 2, Caram 0, Hugnatan 0, Nabong 0, Tolomia 0
BLACKWATER 96 – Walker 34, Erram 18, Digregorio 11, Maliksi 10, Canaleta 6, Marcelo 6, Belo 5, Sumang 4, Pinto 2
Quarterscores: 22-22, 40-52, 73-77, 104-96