MERALCO held strong in the face of adversity, outsteadying Barangay Ginebra in a wild and wooly ending, 85-83, on Friday night to square the PBA Governors Cup Finals at two wins apiece.
Allen Durham scored off a feed from Reynel Hugnatan to make it 85-83 - a lead that stood until the end as Ginebra missed four attempts to tie the game in a helter-skelter sequence where a timeout would have given the Kings a better shot at a game-tying basket.
No timeout was called and misses by Justin Brownlee and Sol Mercado enabled Meralco to pull off the win and turn the season-ending finals into a best-of-three affair after trailing, 0-2.
"The guys really focused this time," Bolts coach Norman Black said at the end of a thrilling Game Four witnessed by over 16,000 fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"We made some big shots down the stretch."
Baser Amer and Chris Newsome also made big shots for the Bolts, who now go to Game Five on Sunday night at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan in a perfect position to avenge their 2-4 loss to Ginebra in this same conference last season.
Durham delivered as usual with 28 points, 18 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks with less than four minutes of rest, capping another workmanlike effort with the short stab off a nice feed from Hugnatan that put the Bolts up for good.
But Durham also finally drew significant help outside Hugnatan.
Amer was among them, bouncing back from a dismal showing in Game Three as he churned out 11 points, three assists, and two boards. The sophomore star, who barely lost the Most Improved Player of the Year award to Chris Ross, punctuated his improved play with the three-pointer from the right corner off a Durham kickout that put the Bolts ahead, 83-81, after the Gin Kings made a late run.
Chris Newsome also showed up as he registered 18 points, 11 boards, four assists, and one steal in almost 40 minutes, while Hugntan was on target again with four treys on the way to finishing with 14 points, on top of seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals, against only one turnover in 30 minutes of the bench.
The result spoiled a late takeover by Justin Brownlee, who either scored or assisted on the Gin Kings’ last 10 points, the last two from the charity stripe that tied the game one last time at 83, before Durham score the marginal basket.
Brownlee, though, missed two shots in the waning seconds that could’ve at least sent the game into overtime for the Gin Kings, who failed to call a timeout that could’ve set things up and saw Sol Mercado suffer a late ankle injury.
MERALCO 85 – Durham 28, Newsome 18, Hugnatan 14, Amer 11, Hodge 7, Dillinger 2, Caram 2, Faundo 2, Lanete 1, Tolomia 0.
GINEBRA 83 – Brownlee 34, Devance 15, Caguioa 8, Aguilar 7, Slaughter 6, Cruz 4, Thompson 4, Ferrer 3, Helterbrand 2, Tenorio 0, Mercado 0.
Quarterscores: 17-17, 41-40, 68-63, 85-83.