MERALCO compounded the late-conference frustrations of Mahindra, hacking out a 104-99 decision in their playoff to clinch the fourth seed in the PBA Governors’ Cup playoffs on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts overhauled a 16-point deficit early in the third quarter to make it a nip-and-tuck affair, before proving steadier in the clutch to earn the a twice-to-beat incentive against this same Mahindra team in the quarterfinals.
Allen Durham and Jared Dillinger hit the biggest baskets at crunch time for the Bolts, who gained a head start in a virtual best-of-three first-round series with the Enforcer.
Mahindra thus botched its fourth and last chance to grab a win-once incentive in the first round of the playoffs after absorbing their fourth successive defeat that has dampened their giant-slaying ways early in the conference.
“I thought it was a story of two halves,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “We just came out flat and had no energy to start, but fortunately, we came out with more energy and we had one stretch where we took the lead and made a big difference.”
Falling into a 57-41 hole early in the third, the Bolts scored 16 unanswered points to suddenly take the lead and engage the Enforcer into a see-saw affair.
Dillinger fired 22 points, including two three-pointers that gave the Bolts two seven-point leads, the second giving them enough cushion to weather the Enfocer’s last-ditch effort that saw them come to within two points after Nino Canaleta converted three free throws after drawing a foul on a three-point attempt.
But the returning Enforcer star couldn’t push them closer as he missed a forced three-point attempt over Chris Newsome that could’ve sent the game into overtime.
James White led the Enforcer with 22 points and 13 boards.
MERALCO 104 – Durham 34, Dillinger 22, Amer 16, Newsome 12, Faundo 7, Hodge 4, Hugnatan 4, Al-Hussaini 2, Nabong 2, Alapag 1, Uyloan 0, Caram 0
MAHINDRA 99 – White 22, Ramos 20, Taha 16, Canaleta 10, Revilla 10, Yee 10, Ballesteros 6, Digregorio 5, Jaime 0, Agovida 0, Bagatsing 0, Guinto 0, Paniamogan 0
Quarterscores: 26-29, 41-53, 69-71, 104-99