PETRON pounced on Meralco’s turnovers to score a 96-87 victory, dealing a major blow to the Bolts’ playoff hopes in the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Boosters rode on the broad shoulders of man-mountain June Mar Fajardo’s dominant play to close out the eliminations with a 10-4 (win-loss) record after a game that saw the Cebuano center face former mentor Danny Ildefonso for the first time in a PBA game.
Though embarrassed during the second period by Ildefonso, who scored off a baseline spin followed by a jumper in his face, Fajardo came back with vengeance in the final half, wreaking havoc in the paint.
The vastly improved big man registered his 10th double-double of the conference with 19 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Boosters, who also got splendid performances from reigning league MVP Arwind Santos and former Meralco guard Chris Ross.
Ross scored all but one of his 18 points in the final half while Santos added 17 and five boards to help Petron seize control in the second period onwards.
“It’s a big win for us against Meralco,” said Petron coach Gee Abanilla, whose team was coming off a 93-112 shellacking at the hands of San Mig Super Coffee on Wednesday. “It’s a good way to bounce back after a loss, coming into the quarterfinals, we want to have some sort of momentum.”
Ildefonso, playing for the first time against a Petron team where he was one of the pillars for 15 years, also did well as he finished just two rebounds shy of a double-double with his 17 points and eight rebounds. He also had five assists and five shotblocks.
For the moment, the win kept Petron’s top-two hopes alive, depending on the result of the Rain or Shine-Air21 match, which is still being played as of posting time.
A win by Air21, which is already out of playoff contention, will push Rain or Shine to a playoff with Petron to determine the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals beginning on Monday.
On the other hand, Meralco closed out the two-round elims with a 5-9 win-loss record, in a tie with Globalport.
However, Meralco’s hopes for a quarterfinal appearance hinges on a Barako Bull victory over Alaska on Sunday. A win by the Energy will gift the Bolts the No. 8 seed, giving them the right to face top-seeded Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals.