MERALCO proved steadier at crunch time against Barangay Ginebra, hacking out a 102-99 victory on Sunday night to solidify its quarterfinal bid in the PBA Governors’ Cup before a sizeable crowd at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts engaged the Gin Kings in a grueling, nip-and-tuck encounter, then turned to Andre Emmett down the stretch to pull off the hard-earned win, their fifth in nine games that moved them to a tie for fifth spot with Rain or Shine.
Emmett fired a game-high 34 points, including the Bolts’ last five points—two on a tough runner over Japeth Aguilar that gave them the lead for good with 32.9 seconds left.
“That was a thrilling win and a gutsy effort from our guys,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “This gives us a little bit of breathing room.”
The Gin Kings, missing injured star Mark Caguioa, dropped to a 3-6 win-loss card that left a huge dent to their postseason hopes.
The crowd favorites, though, gave themselves a chance to at least send the pulsating affair into overtime, rallying from a late seven-point deficit and knotting the count at 99 after Aguilar buried a wide-open right-corner three-pointer that sent the gallery into a frenzy.
But that set the stage for Emmett’s heroics as the prolific American import retaliated on the other end, then split his free throws in their next offensive possession to seal the deal in the see-saw battle that saw nine lead changes and nine deadlocks.
Orlando Johnson, the Gin Kings’ own high-scoring reinforcement, led a balanced attack with 25 points, but committed a late turnover that led to Emmett scoring Meralco’s insurance point.
Greg Slaughter bounced back from two lackluster efforts as the towering slotman tallied 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and six boards in 33 minutes.
Aguilar finished with another double-double of 18 points and 12 boards, along with three blocks, while Sol Mercado chipped in 13 markers, although he missed a desperation potential overtime-sending triple in the dying seconds.
MERALCO 102 – Emmett 34, Dillinger 12, Ando 12, Hugnatan 12, David 10, Hodge 7, Cortez 6, Nabong 4, Ildefonso 3, Anthony 2, Caram 0
GINEBRA 99 – Johnson 25, Slaughter 21, Aguilar 18, Mercado 13, Kim 12, Tenorio 10, Urbiztondo 0, Pena 0, Marcelo 0, Brondial 0
Quarterscores: 23-28, 50-48, 75-80, 102-99