MERALCO needed just an extra session – and not another day – to dispatch Star as it eked out a 91-88 overtime victory to complete a sweep of their PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series and make a return trip to the finals.
The Bolts squandered a double-digit lead in regulation against a stubborn Hotshots side that missed the services of star guard Paul Lee, but regained their bearings in overtime to finish off their opponents in just three games.
Jared Dillinger knocked down the three-pointer that put the Bolts up for good, before Ranidel de Ocampo and Cliff Hodge also hit huge jumpers that gave them enough separation to pull off the win on Thursday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“Tonight’s game was a little bit of what I expected,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “I didn’t expect Star to give up. They were fighting without Paul Lee.”
“We really had to gut it out,” he added. “But in the end, it was really worth it.”
The Bolts await the winner of the Ginebra-TNT series that’s currently tied and shifts to Game Three on Friday night also at the Big Dome.
The Hotshots’ local crew stepped up in the absence of Lee and another sub-par offensive showing from import Kristofer Acox as they erased a 13-point third-quarter deficit, even taking an 83-79 lead after a Jio Jalalon putback teardrop with a little over two minutes left in regulation.
The Bolts, though, were eager to close the series out as Allen Durham retaliated with a stab before Chris Newsome scored on a layup to tie the game with a minute and 22 seconds left.
The Bolts could’ve sealed the game in regulation, but Durham missed a tough turnaround jumper that went short at the buzzer.
Durham made up for it in the extra session with the assist to Dillinger, who drained the go-ahead triple from right wing that gave them an 86-83 lead, before De Ocampo and Hodge padded to their cushion.
Durham again anchored the attack, tallying 24 points and missing a 20-20 by just one rebound, adding six assists, one steal, and one block, while Hodge chipped in 18 points, eight boards, three assists, and one steal.
Mark Barroca led the Hotshots’ stand with 21 points, 12 boards, and missing a triple-double by just two assists in 37 minutes, while Marc Pingris added 16 points and six rebounds as Acox could only contribute four points on 2-of-9 shooting in almost 35 minutes.
MERALCO 91 – Durham 24, Hodge 18, De Ocampo 13, Amer 10, Dillinger 10, Newsome 9, Hugnatan 7, Lanete 0, Tolomia 0
STAR 88 – Barroca 21, Pingris 16, Jalalon 12, Sangalang 8, Ramos 8, Dela Rosa 7, Reavis 6, Acox 4, Gamalinda 3, Melton 3, Simon 0
Quarterscores: 30-27, 54-43, 69-68, 91-88