By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
FASHIONED out a gutsy come-from-behind victory in their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup best-of-five semifinal series opener on Sunday, the Meralco Bolts shoot for a commanding 2-0 lead over the Star Hotshots when they reengage for Game Two today in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
To be played at the Sta. Rosa Multipurpose Complex at 7 p.m., the Bolts, top seeds entering the playoffs of the season-ending PBA tournament, are out to build on their 72-66 victory in Game Two where they pulled the rug from under the Hotshots after playing catch-up for much of the way.
Import Allen Durham and Jared Dillinger came up big for Meralco down the stretch to stun Star, which was seemingly heading to claiming the first game until the Bolts decided to spoil things.
Down by six points, 66-60, with a little over three minutes to go in the contest, the Bolts thereafter made a run that proved too hard to stop for the Hotshots.
Back-to-back triples by Ranidel de Ocampo and Mr. Dillinger leveled the count at 66-all inside the last two minutes.
Mr. Dillinger then put Meralco on top, 68-66, with a drive to the basket at the 1:02 mark of the ball game.
Mr. Durham then starred in the succeeding plays, first forcing Star’s Paul Lee into a turnover before connecting on a fadeaway jumper moments later to pad their lead to four, 70-66, with 33 ticks to go.
Jio Jalalon tried to narrow the gap for the Hotshots but his attempt in the middle of the paint was foiled by the Meralco defense.
Two free throws from Garvo Lanete seconds later sealed the comeback win for the Bolts.
Mr. Durham once again posted big numbers for his team, finishing with 23 points and 23 rebounds while Mr. Dillinger came off the bench to chip in 15 points and five assists.
Guard Baser Amer had 10 points and four dimes.
Star, meanwhile, was led by Mr. Jalalon with 15 points to go along with six assists, followed by Mr. Lee and Mark Barroca with 11 points apiece.
Hotshots import Kris Acox, limited by foul trouble, had seven points, 16 rebounds and two blocks.
“It took us a while to get our game going but we just fought back. This is our first game in a span of a week and some of our guys were banged up. But we continued to play. In the playoffs it’s about making the big shots. And luckily we hit ours down the stretch,” said player of the game Dillinger, whose team shot 35% from the floor throughout the match and was held to just seven points for the entire first period.
“But this is just one game and we have to be ready for Star once again,” he cautioned.
The winner of this series faces the victor of the other semifinal bracket between the TNT KaTropa and defending champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings, which began their own series last night.
Meralco is looking to redeem itself after losing in the Governors’ Cup finals last year while Star is angling to return to the finals after an eight-conference absence.