STA. Rosa, Laguna – Allan Durham scored 29 points, had 27 rebounds and missed a triple double by just three assists in leading Meralco to a 96-90 decision of Star in a Petron Saturday Special Game that sealed a playoff berth in the PBA Governors’ Cup at Sta. Rosa Multipurpose Complex here.
The Bolts built big leads early and showed a lot of poise and composure in staving off rallies by the Hotshots all the way until the final buzzer, as they bounced back from a tough loss to sister team TNT KaTropa to formalize entry into the quarterfinals after rising to 6-2.
Durham didn’t do it all, actually, as the entire Meralco starting unit finished in twin digits in scoring with Chris Newsome spiking a 17-point night with seven assists and Baser Amer making three triples in finishing with 13.
The loss was the third straight after four consecutive wins for the Hotshots, who have now dropped out of the top four for the meantime and allowed the Texters to squeeze in.
Meralco will still face Alaska, GlobalPort and San Miguel Beer, in that order, in closing out its elimination round schedule and would need to go at least 2-1 to seal a top four berth, and a twice-to-beat privilege.
Malcolm Hill had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Hotshots.
Meanwhile, Barangay Ginebra shoots for an eighth straight win – and possibly top seeding – on Sunday when the streaking Gin Kings battle Grand Slam-seeking sister team San Miguel Beer at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Kings got the perfect workout they needed on Friday night in dispatching Blackwater, and extending the conference’s longest winning run would, in all likelihood, mean a top four berth and a twice-to-beat incentive in the first round of the playoffs.
Game time is 6:45 p.m.
With a 4-3 record, the Beermen are still out of the top four and a loss would greatly hamper their chances
of tabbing that win-once advantage in the quarterfinals.
Despite the great form they are enjoying, Ginebra coach Tim Cone refuses to admit that they are the team to beat thus far in the conference.
“San Miguel is the team to beat,” Cone said after a 98-81 win over the Elite two nights ago. “I read somewhere that coach Leo (Austria) was saying that. I just chuckled after reading it.”
And Ginebra has the motivation to beat San Miguel and make life hard for the Beermen entering the homestretch of the elimination round.
“We’re still hurting from that all-Filipino Finals,” Cone added. “We will come into that game with the positive energy (after beating the Elite handily), all I wished is that we had one more day to prepare for them.”
In the first game, Alaska also tries to extend its own streak and get solidly in the fight for a playoff berth when the Aces battle sputtering KIA Picantos at 4:30 p.m.