MERALCO gained a measure of respect as it stunned B-Meg, 104-101, and registered its first win in the PBA Governors Cup semifinals on Friday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Already out of contention, the Bolts came out with greater resolve and established a cushion big enough to quell a late comeback by the Llamados, whose bid for a finals berth suffered a major blow.
“We played with a lot of spunk,” Bolts coach Ryan Gregorio said.
Sol Mercado fired 30 points on top of five assists, four boards, and three steals to lead the Bolts to their fifth win overall against eight losses. The Bolts dedicated the victory to Meralco chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, who turns 66 on Saturday.
Import Mario West added 29 points and played for 48 minutes for the Bolts, who entered the payoff period protecting a 77-63 lead.
The Llamados fell to 8-4 and into a tie with Ginebra in second place.
Marcus Blakely had 30 points, 21 rebounds, four blocks and two steals for the Llamados, who turned to locals James Yap and Yancy de Ocampo in mounting a fightback.
Trailing, 63-77, entering the fourth, the Llamados crawled within one, 102-101, after a Yap catch-and-shoot triple that kissed the backboard with 3.9 seconds left.
But the Bolts held on after Asi Taulava and Mac Cardona scored a free throw each in the ensuing possessions.
In all, the Llamados outscored the Bolts in the fourth period, 38-27, but fell short of their rally.
“We’ve been outplayed in the first three games. We’ve been in a situation where we don’t know how to play in this environment, but finally we've won one,” Gregorio said.
Cardona finished with 11 points, while Taulava was a point away from a double-double with nine and 14 rebounds.
MERALCO (104) -- Mercado 30, West 29, Ross 18, Cardona 11, Taulava 9, Macapagal 3, Timberlake 2, Reyes 2
B-MEG (101) -- Blakely 30, Yap 22, Simon 13, Barroca 11, De Ocampo 11, Urbiztondo 6, Pingris 5, Villanueva 3, Reavis 0
Quarterscores: 31-17, 54-43, 77-63, 104-101