MERALCO restored order as it outlasted Alaska, 92-87, to put their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series on level terms on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The second-seeded Bolts, who got swept in their last Final Four appearance, grabbed one win this time - and in style - as they erased a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to take Game Two.
Jared Dillinger was on target from the outside while Chris Newsome attacked the inside as they conspired with import Arinze Onuaku to complete the comeback.
“We really struggled in the first half, but in the second half, we did a much better job,” Bolts coach Norman Black said after his team won in the semifinals for the first time since the 2013 Governors’ Cup.
“And I have to give a lot of credit to JD for really opening up the defense,” he added. “Chris Newsome was able to get some penetrations which really opened the lane up, and I felt that Arinze just hung in there.”
Game Three is on Friday also at the Big Dome with the best-of-five series even at 1-1.
Dillinger fired 13 of his 20 points in the payoff period, including six on back-to-back three-pointers that gave the Bolts an 88-84 cushion, enough to prevail against the Aces.
Onuaku heeded his and coach and teammates’ call to be more aggressive as he registered 22 points, the last two on a putback that sealed the win, while Newsome and Reynel Hugnatan added 19 and 15 points, respectively.
The Bolts looked headed on the verge of getting swept anew as they fell into a 77-63 hole a little over nine minutes left in the game, before banking on a 17-2 slavo, capped by a Dillinger top-of-the-key three-pointer to suddenly gain command and set up the thrilling finish.
Rob Dozier put up his best scoring output for the Aces with 28 points along with 10 boards, and three blocks that went for naught as RJ Jazul was held to just four points after going for 18 in the series opener.
Meralco 92 – Onuaku 22, Dillinger 20, Newsome 19, Hugnatan 15, Hodge 7, Alapag 3, Buenafe Ry 2, Caram 2, Ferriols 2, Faundo 0, Amer 0
Alaska 87 – Dozier 28, Abueva 18, Baguio 10, Banchero 9, Baclao 5, Dela Cruz 5, Jazul 4, Thoss 4, Hontiveros 2, Menk 2, Eman 0, Exciminiano 0
Quarterscores: 14-17; 37-44; 61-70; 92-87.