Meralco on cusp of first finals appearance with win over TNT in Game Three thriller
Reynel Hugnatan comes up with the huge baskets to lift Meralco to victory. Jaime Campos

MERALCO proved it is for real as it held off TNT Katropa, 119-113, on Saturday night to move on the cusp of its first finals appearance in the PBA.   

Showing their Game Two win was no fluke, the Bolts ended up with more bullets in a shootout with the Texters to take a 2-1 lead in a Governors’ Cup semifinal series where Meralco was perceived as a heavy underdog.

Allen Durham was solid as usual, but it was the timely treys of Reynel Hugnatan and Jimmy Alapag and the energy Chris Newsome radiated that spelled the biggest difference for the Bolts, who overcame the absence of injured Jared Dillinger.

“It was a great effort for our team and we needed them all as we caught TNT on a good night,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “I couldn’t be more proud of my players for getting over the hump in a way.”

“This is a big step for Meralco to take in terms of getting to the finals,” the champion coach added as his team can advance to the title round with a win in Game Four on Monday night.

Hugnatan, not known as an outside shooter, knocked down five three-pointers, including in back-to-back possession off Durham passes that gave the Bolts the lead for good at 110-109 with less than three minutes left.

Alapag buried three of his own to pull just three shy of surpassing Allan Caidic for the three-point record, while Jonathan Uyloan, Baser Amer, and Durham also joined long-range onslaught as the Bolts, as a unit, converted a franchise record 17 triples.

Newsome flashed his athleticism with two vicious slams that sparked the Bolts’ stand in the fourth quarter as the sister squads finally engaged each other in a pulsating battle after the first two games ended in blowouts.

The result spoiled another solid showing of Jayson Castro, who registered 28 points, 10 assists, and two boards in 35 minutes.


The scores:

MERALCO 119 – Durham 23, Hugnatan 21, Alapag 17, Newsome 16, Hodge 13, Amer 12, Uyloan 9, Faundo 6, Nabong 2, Buenafe 0

TNT 113 – Castro 28, Fonacier 20, De Ocampo 15, Williams 15, Ammons 14, Tautuaa 10, Carey 4, Ababou 3, Rosario 3, Rosser 1, Rosales 0

Quarterscores: 28-23, 50-47, 82-84, 119-113

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos