Down Elite in knockout match
(Smart Araneta Coliseum) 7 p.m. – TNT KaTropa vs Rain or Shine
The Meralco Bolts made sure they won’t join the dubious list of top-seeded teams that suffered a quarterfinal exit and kept their campaign alive in the PBA Governors’ Cup with a gritty performance in the second half.
Baser Amer sizzled from long range, Garvo Lanete and Jared Dillinger followed his lead, Ranidel de Ocampo played stellar defense and import Allen Durham overcame a sprained ankle and the Bolts foiled the Blackwater Elite’s upset bid, 10496, to reach the semifinals of the season-ending conference.
Amer fired 31 points on the eve of his 25th birthday, leading the charge for Meralco’s comeback from a 52-40 deficit at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to arrange a best-of-five semifinal series with the well-rested Star Hotshots.
Lanete and Dillinger knocked big threes, mostly in the fourth, De Ocampo limited Elite import Henry Walker after a fiery first half while Durham shrugged off a sprained right ankle to score key baskets late in the fourth to seal the hard-fought victory.
Meralco coach Norman Black hailed his team’s resolve just when things seemed bleak when Walker fired three straight triples that gave Blackwater a 48-37 lead in the second for the team’s first double-digit advantage.
Walker had 27 of his 34 in the first two quarters.
“My guys showed a lot of heart in this game,” said Black. “I mean, we were really down at halftime, and we really had to find direction for the team, because it seemed that we were floating dead in the water, we couldn’t do right offensively or defensively, and we were having a hard time defending Walker.
“Tried to stay as calm as possible, if you can do that at halftime of a game we’re getting beaten at, we just tried to make some adjustments, especially on the defensive end,” added Black, who credited Ocampo’s defense on Walker, who missed five of six from rainbow country in the second half.
Durham had 18 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, Lanete and Dillinger hit five threes apiece for 17 and 15 points, respectively, and De Ocampo produced 14 points and eight rebounds for the Bolts, who are hoping to carry the momentum into the semis series against the Hotshots.
Game 1 starts on Sunday at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna. The Hotshots had two extra days of rest after finishing off the NLEX Road Warriors Tuesday.
Meralco is looking to Durham’s ankle to improve as quick as possible after stepping on the foot of Poy Erram in the fourth. Durham returned after a quick treatment and scored backto-back three-point opportunities that were never completed, giving the Bolts a 99-91 lead, 3:52 left.
His ninth assist resulted in a Dillinger that put the Bolts in comfort zone entering the final minute, 10494.