JARED Dillinger and Darnell Jackson led an electrifying second-half fightback from 22-points down as Meralco pulled off a 105-98 victory over Barako Bull on Friday night and clinched a playoff berth in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Stymied during the first half by Barako Bull’s defense, Dillinger punished Barako Bull with an array of three-point shots to driving layups while the 6-7 Jackson flaunted his silky-smooth perimeter shooting to secure the Bolts’ fourth win in eight starts.
Meralco’s victory also towed defending champion Alaska, which currently is in fourth spot with its 4-3 record, into the knockout rounds.
The Energy dropped to a woeful 2-6 record, their playoff hopes no longer in their hands with one game left in their schedule.
“We started flat, but in the game of basketball, we don’t lose in the second, third and fourth quarters. This game is too important for us to let it slip away,” Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio.
Jackson erupted for 30 points, 17 in the second half, while Dillinger added 16, spiked by four three-point shots.
Gary David and John Wilson each added 15 points, while seldom-used playmaker Chris Timberlake came off the bench to score 12 points for the Bolts.
It was a sorry loss for the Energy, who started the game like a house on fire after grabbing a 14-0 lead during the first five minutes of the contest. Barako Bull erected its biggest lead at 44-22 early in the second period on Willy Wilson’s split from the free throw line.
But the Bolts methodically climbed back from a huge hole to win from way behind for the second time this conference. On March 23, Meralco also fought back from 18 points down on the way to a 109-98 victory over Air21 Express.
Joshua Dollard led the Energy with with 33 points and 15 rebounds in another wasted effort after failing to get the much-needed local support during Meralco’s searing second-half binge.
JC Intal and Mick Pennisi added 12 points each for Barako.
Meralco 105 - Jackson 30, Dillinger 16, David 15, Wilson 15, Timberlake 12, Hodge 10, Hugnatan 7, Caram 0, Salvacion 0, Sena 0, Guevarra 0.
Barako 98 - Dollard 33, Intal 12, Pennisi 12, Fortuna 11, Miller 9, Miranda 8, Wilson 7, Marcelo 3, Buenafe 3, Pena 0.
Quarterscores: 20-33, 42-54, 73-74, 105-98