IF Meralco’s win last night were to be the gauge, then the Bolts are ready for the quarterfinal round of the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The Bolts steadied in the fourth quarter as they repeated over Mahindra, 104-99, in their playoff for the fourth and last quarterfinal incentive at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With the win, the Bolts officially became the fourth and last team that will enjoy twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinal round that will begin tomorrow.
The playoff became necessary after the Bolts, the Enforcers and the Alaska Aces ended tied for fourth to sixth places at 6-5 (win-loss) at the end of the elimination.
The Aces fell to number 6 for having the most inferior quotient.
The win though did not come handy for the Bolts who spent the whole first half chasing the Enforcers, and only got their offense in motion during the third quarter where they made a brief run to grab the lead at 62-59.
The Enforcers still dragged them to a close contest from there until late in the fourth quarter before Jared Dillinger and Allen Durham delivered the points that mattered most to lift the Bolts to the win.
“I thought it was a story of two halves, first half we’re a step slow,” said Meralco coach Norman Black after the win.
“We came out flat, we didn’t have energy. Next half we came out with much more energy,” added Black while also issuing kind words for Mahindra which, he said “played well this conf.”
Interestingly, the Bolts and the Enforcers are actually meeting each other in the quarterfinal round, and the former now need to win only once over the latter to advance to the semi-final round.
It marked the second time that the Bolts defeated the Enforcers this conference, counting their 86-83 win back in the elimination last Sept 11, but that doesn’t make Black quite comfortable going into the playoff.
“We expect another tough game from them, we expect nothing less,” said Black.
The Enforcers were still within striking distance at 96-92 late in the fourth, when Durham scored on a jumper to give Meralco a 98-92 cushion. The Bolts even stretched it to 101-94 on Dillinger’s triple, 59.8 seconds left.
The Enforcers were down but not out.
Mark Yee came up with a quick drive, and, after a Meralco fumble in the ensuing play, KG Canaleta fished a foul from Chris Newsome while going for a triple. He made all the three freethrows, putting Mahindra within 101-99, 19.9 secondsleft.
MERALCO 104 - Durham 34, Dillinger 22, Amer 16, Newsome 12, Faundo 7, Hodge 4, Hugnatan 4, Al-Hussaini 2, Nabong 2, Alapag 1, Uyloan 0, Caram 0.
MAHINDRA 99 - White 22, Ramos 20, Taha 16, Canaleta 10, Revilla 10, Yee 10, Ballesteros 6, Digregorio 5, Jaime 0, Agovida 0, Bagatsing 0, Guinto 0, Paniamogan 0.
Quarterscores: 26-29, 41-53, 69-71, 104-99