Meralco seals playoff for 4th spot, beats Mahindra
MERALCO finally got to win a close one and got amply rewarded as a result.
The Bolts came through with the clutch plays in the stretch to fashion an 86-83 escape over MahindraSunday and secure a playoff spot for a twice-to-beat advantage in the PBA Governors Cup quarterfinals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Allen Durham notched 34 points and 17 rebounds while Meralco’s defense kicked in when needed most in wriggling free Mahindra’s clutches in the dying seconds to snap out of back-to-back losses.
After winding up the eliminations with a 6-5 slate the Bolts can now look forward to a knockout game with either Alaska, Phoenix or NLEX, all toting 5-5 cards, for the No. 4 spot and its win-once advantage against the fifth-ranked team in the ensuing round.
“It’s actually nice to win a close game for a change,” said coach Norman Black, whose Bolts lost four of five games by four points or less.
“But the ball bounced our way today and we won the game and that’s the only thing that matters,” added Black, who also became only the fourth coach in the league to record at least 600 wins after Tim Cone (832), Yeng Guiao (636) and Baby Dalupan (601).
“We’ll take this and now we just have to wait back and see who we’re gonna play next.”
The loss was Mahindra’s third straight as it now also awaits how the remaining eliminations games unfold and how it will be involved in the knockout games.
James White had 27 points and 12 rebounds and his back-to-back jumpers gave the Enforcer an 83-82 lead with still 2:01 remaining.
But Mahindra simply could not find the winning line in the stretch after giving the chance to pad its lead with a Meralco turnover and miss in the next two plays.
Aldrech Ramos ruined what should have been a fine second half by launching an airball and, after Durham’s basket gave Meralco back the lead, issuing a pass that was behind White, resulting in a turnover, 5.2 ticks left.
Baser Amer almost lost the ball after receiving the inbound pass, but was able to tap the ball over to Durham, who canned two charities off a foul by Paolo Taha, only 1.2 ticks left.
Mark Yee’s desperation heave from the backcourt was way short and wide as time expired.
“It was a bit scary, the ball being down there on the floor for anybody to take it,” said Black of their final inbound.
Jared Dillinger added 12 points and Chris Newsome 10 for Meralco, which erected as much as a 58-45 third quarter lead but could not stop Mahindra’s fightback that grew steam as the second half wore on.
Ramos wound up with 17 after being held to just five points in the first half while LA Revilla chipped in 12.
Yee also got caught up in the Mahindra frenzy, burying a triple before Ramos boomed in one of his own before Ramos scored on a mid-range jumper to peg the game’s first of three deadlocks at 77.
The tight ending was hardly thought of in the third period when Meralco pounced on a 0-for-10 Mahindra clip in the last five minutes to go on a 7-2 spurt and take a 71-62 lead into the final canto.
Dillinger, who only had a point in a 103-104 loss to Star last Sunday, already had three triples for 11 in the first half and mainly combined with Durham in keeping Meralco ahead 50-45 at the break.
Bolstered by a buzzer-beating triple to end the opening period and pull Mahindra within 22-25, White scattered 10 of his 19 first half points in the second period as the Enforcer continued to stay right on the heels of the Bolts.
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