(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. -- SMB vs. NLEX
7 p.m. -- Ginebra vs. Alaska
MERALCO wrapped up its campaign in the PBA Governors’ Cup eliminations with a twice-to-beat advantage as it nipped Mahindra, 104-99, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
The Bolts improved to a 7-5 win-loss record to earn the incentive while relegating the Enforcers to a 6-6 win-loss card.
Allen Durham was once again the pillar of strength for Meralco, finishing with a game-high 34 points.
But the man of the hour was Jared Dillinger, who led the locals’ offensive with 22 points while Baser Amer and Chris Newsome contributed 16 and 12 points, respectively.
Dillinger was also a big factor in the Bolts’ second half explosion, enough to earn him the best player of the game honor.
Of course, nobody is happier than Meralco coach Norman Black.
“I thought it was a story of two halves,” said Black. “First half we’re a step slow, we came out flat and we didn’t have the energy.”
“Next half, we came out with much more energy,” he added.
Black also tipped his hat to Mahindra, the team they will face in the quarterfinals.
“Mahindra played well this conference. We expect another tough game from them. We are expecting nothing less,” Black said.
Mahindra opened up the game in fiery fashion, erecting a 26-16 lead midway in the first period behind import James White and Nino Canaleta.
Meralco was able to pull within three, 26-29 at the end of the first quarter with a 10-3 blitz.
But the Enforcers’ momentum was there in the second period, exploding with a crippling 14-2 run for a 53-41 halftime advantage.
Mahindra continued its strong showing in the third canto and put up the biggest lead in the game, a 16-point advantage, 57-41 anchored on White and Aldrech Ramos.
It was then Meralco came to life, as Dillinger and Durham connived for a 19-2 run that saw the Bolts getting a 60-59 lead.
Dillinger then drilled in two straight three-pointers for a 68-62 advantage, but the Enforcers answered courtesy of Canaleta’s trey to end the third with Mahindra holding on to a 71-69 lead.
Mahindra led, 84-78 early in the payoff period when Dillinger and Newsome once again provided the offensive firepower to give Meralco a 93-87 edge in the last 2:50 of the game.
White and Ramos tried to keep the Enforcers afloat but Dillinger was there to douse their rally, sinking a trey to push the Bolts’ lead to seven, 101-94 with 59.8 seconds remaining.
Mahindra closed the gap to 99-101 as Mark Yee and Canaleta scored five points in the ensuing play.
Jimmy Alapag split his charities in the next frame in the final 14 seconds, but Canaleta missed the potential game-tying triple, leaving the Bolts walking away with the win.
White scored 22 points and 13 boards while Ramos chipped in 20 markers for Mahindra which missed its chance of claiming a twice-to-beat advantage in its first-ever playoff appearance.
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.