BARAKO Bull wasted one golden opportunity, but at least salvaged another.
The Energy escaped with an 81-79 victory over Meralco on Sunday to force a three-team playoff for the last semifinal berth in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Leroy Hickerson had 22 points, six rebounds, four assists and four blocks to lead the Energy, who held on despite wasting a 17-point fourth-quarter lead.
The Energy tied Meralco and Powerade for sixth place with 4-5 win-loss marks and could have enjoyed a bye in the three-team playoffs had they won by at least five points.
Despite the loss, the Bolts still emerged with the highest quotient among the three teams. The Energy will now face the Tigers on Tuesday at 6:45 p.m. with the winner taking on the Bolts on Wednesday for the last semifinal spot.
“Unfortunately, we have to go through the long route,” Barako Bull coach Junel Baculi said.
The Energy looked as if they had the win and the superior quotient locked up when they led, 77-60, after a Danny Seigle basket with eight minutes and 40 seconds to go in the fourth.
But the Bolts mounted a 19-3 run, capped by a Dennis Daa charity, to come to within one, 80-79.
But Daa failed to complete the job, missing a potential go-ahead basket with 2.3 seconds left.
“We played not to lose,” Baculi said. “We brought it upon ourselves so we have to play above it.”
The Energy limited the Bolts to less than 80 points, the first time they did so after allowing their last eight opponents to score 100 points or more.
“I challenged them to play better defensively,” Baculi said.
Meralco import Mario West still came away with 40 points, including five triples, and five steals.
The Energy hung on despite committing 23 turnovers, compared to just 14 by the Bolts.
BARAKO BULL 81 - Hickerson 22, Seigle 16, Tubid 10, Kramer 8, Miller 7, Allado 7, Cruz 6, Salvacion 3, Najorda 2, Pennisi 0
MERALCO 79 - West 40, Taulava 15, Cardona 8, Daa 5, Macapagal 5, Bulawan 2, Mercado 2, Hugnatan 2, Ross 0, Reyes 0
Quarterscores: 22-14, 41-39, 69-59, 81-79