Mer­alco tries to defy odds, eyes re­peat over Phoenix

Sun.Star Pampanga - - SHOW! - N PBA his­tory, 101 of 113 teams with the twiceIto-beat ad­van­tage have ad­vanced to the next round.

The Mer­alco Bolts hope to be among those who de­fied the odds as they clash with the Phoenix Fuel Mas­ters in a knock­out setto in their PBA Gover­nors Cup quar­ter­fi­nals matchup Fri­day at the Smart Araneta Coli­seum.

The Bolts have erased the Fuel Mas­ters' ad­van­tage and put the two of them in equal foot­ing on a 90-74 vic­tory Wed­nes­day over at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The two teams slug it out in a do-or-die at 7 p.m. with the win­ner ad­vanc­ing to the best-of­five semi­fi­nals ver­sus the Alaska Milk Aces.

Coach Nor­man Black once again ral­lied his troops to play a lock­down de­fense as they won a fifth straight door-die match in the sea­son-end­ing tour­ney.

En­ter­ing the match, the Fuel Mas­ters av­er­aged a league sec­ondbest 106.1 points.

But with an ef­fi­cient de­fense, the Bolts dragged the Fuel Mas­ters to a low-scor­ing 3335 first-half battle - the low­est this con­fer­ence -and held Phoenix 32 points below their av­er­age in the end.

Black in­sists, though, that it's just one game, and that they need two in a row to stay in the hunt for a pos­si­ble third straight Gover­nors Cup Fi­nals stint.

True enough, the Fuel Mas­ters ache to re­bound and achieve a feat that has never been done in fran­chise his­tory.

They take their se­cond crack at a first ever semis, with the Fuel Mas­ters vow­ing to give it all and leave ev­ery­thing on the floor in this KO setto.

The Fuel Mas­ters lorded it over in re­bound­ing 67-53 but couldn't shoot straight Wed­nes­day night.

Def­i­nitely, they need to move the ball around and find the open man to have a bet­ter chance of win­ning.

The Bolts, how­ever, are de­ter­mined to work harder and play even bet­ter in the next game.

"We'll try to cor­rect what­ever er­rors we had (Wed­nes­day) and try to come out bet­ter," said Black. (SB) - Mer­alco coach Nor­man Black plans to ex­tend Jared Dillinger's play­ing time on Fri­day when the Bolts at­tempt to re­peat over the Phoenix Fuel Mas­ters to ad­vance to the PBA Gover­nors' Cup semi-fi­nals.

Dillinger played seven min­utes in his re­turn Wed­nes­day to help the Bolts take a 90-74 vic­tory over the Fuel Mas­ters and force a knock­out match for the semi-fi­nal seat.

The 10-year vet­eran was out for most of the elim­i­na­tion be­cause of a quad in­jury.

De­spite his lim­ited play­ing time, Dillinger man­aged to make his pres­ence felt and vis­i­bly pleased Black, who be­lieves JD could play a sig­nif­i­cant role in Fri­day's the do-or-die match at the Smart Araneta Coli­seum.

"Now that I have seen that he can play, he will play more," said Black, prais­ing Dillinger for his de­fen­sive ef­fort on Phoenix's en­er­getic star Calvin Abueva.

"I didn't know if I wanted to force him in this sit­u­a­tion - a do-or-die game - be­cause he hasn't played the en­tire con­fer­ence. But he showed me that he can get out there and give me a few min­utes. Def­i­nitely, he'll show up on Fri­day," Black added.

Dillinger vows to do what­ever he can to keep the Bolts' achieve their goal.

"You gotta be ready to go out there," said the 34-year-old Dillinger. "I'm not 25 any­more so it's tak­ing me longer to get ac­ti­vated and get my legs fired. But I'm gonna do all that I can just to help the guys out any­way I can." (JT) -

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