ANTIPOLO — Meralco picked up from where it left off in the PBA Governors Cup playoffs, beating Alaska, 97-92, to draw first blood in their best-of-five semifinal series at the Ynares Center.
Allen Durham and Chris Newsome once again carried the streaking Bolts, who had to win six straight do-or-die games just to reach the semifinals, yet are now two wins away from a third successive finals appearance in this conference.
The Bolts, who entered the playoffs as the seventh seed, will go for a 2-0 lead against the third-seeded Aces on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I think we are just running on adrenaline right now. We are running on emotions having made the semis just two days ago,” said Meralco coach Norman Black, who will celebrate his 61st birthday on Monday.
Durham finished with 32 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists for Bolts, who took a 47-31 lead in the second quarter but had to turn back repeated rallies by Alaska in the second half.
The Aces, who bundled out San Miguel in the quarterfinals, cut the deficit down to six points,82-76, but a triple by Chris Newsome and a lay-up by Baser Amer knocked the wind out of Alaska's sails.
Newsome scored 16 points while Amer added 14 points.
Mike Harris had 37 points and 18 rebounds while Chris Banchero, who was listed as a game-time decision following an injury, had 16 points for the Aces.
Meralco 97—Durham 32, Newsome 16, Amer 14, Hugnatan 9, Caram 7, Faundo 6, Canaleta 6, Tolomia 5, Salva 2, Dillinger 0.
Alaska 92—Harris 37, Banchero 16, Manuel 14, Casio 5, Enciso 5, Exciminiano 5, J. Pascual 4, Teng 4, Galliguez 2, Baclao 0, Racal 0, Thoss 0.
Quarters: 25-17; 47-34; 72-56; 97-92