IMPORT Eric Dawson exploded for 50 points while Macmac Cardona hit the marginal basket in Meralco's 118-116 overtime victory over Rain or Shine that enabled the Bolts to avoid a knockout match against the same team at the start of the PBA Commissioner's Cup playoffs.
Cardona's running hook shot with under a minute left proved to be the marginal basket as Meralco sealed a duel with San Mig Coffee in one of the two best-of-three quarterfinal match-ups instead of meeting a twice-to-beat Painters team again in the playoffs.
That is exactly the challenge now facing Barangay Ginebra, which slipped to No. 7 in the seedings after Meralco's victory.
“I think it’s an important win for us because it primed us for an opportunity via a best-of-three series (against San Mig Coffee),” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio.
Cardona, however, almost turned from hero to goat in the endgame when he appeared to have fouled Beau Belga in the final seconds while the Rain or Shine center attempted a potential game-winning basket from beyond the three-point arc.
The referees refused to blow their whistles.
The entire Rain or Shine bench, led by assistant coach Caloy Garcia, vehemently protested the non-call even as Belga and Cardona figured in a shoving match and a heated exchange of words.
Painters coach Yeng Guiao, who was ejected at the 2:54 mark of the first period after being slapped with flagrant misconduct, described officiating as “horrible."
“That last play (on Belga’s three-point attempt), may foul naman talaga. May contact sa kamay and it was an obvious call,” he said after the game.
"Pero kakalimutan na lang namin ang game na yun and focus on Ginebra."
The multi-titled Gregorio commended Dawson, who took command for the Bolts in overtime even after hurting his knee in a collision with Belga.
“In tonight’s game, it was really Eric Dawson who towed us to victory. He scored 50 points, played with one leg and still (had) enough (energy) to make the crucial baskets to secure the victory for us,” he added.
The 6’9” Dawson scored 15 of his game-high 50 points in the final period and overtime, outduelling Rain or Shine import Bruno Sundov, who finished with 31 and 19 boards.
Meralco 118 - Dawson 50, Cardona 19, Reyes 10, Hugnatan 10, Manuel 9, Buenafe 6, Artadi 6, Salvacion 5, Hodge 3, Ross 0
Rain or Shine 116 - Sundov 31, Chan 18, Lee 16, Norwood 16, Tiu 11, Cruz 9, Arana 5, Rodriguez 4, Ibanes 4, Matias 2, Belga 0, Quinahan 0
Quarterscores: 34-36, 62-48, 86-80, 110-110, 118-116