MERALCO regained control in crucial stretches and hit timely baskets in the second half to trip gutsy NLEX, 101-95, and notch a vital win in the 2016 Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night.
Allen Durham again had a complete game for the Bolts, finishing with team-highs of 31 points and 17 rebounds on top of five assists to lead the team, while Cliff Hodge added 17 markers.
Meralco remained in fifth place and improved to 5-3 after this second win in a row. More importantly, it is still on the outside looking in in terms of finishing as one of the top four teams, which will have a twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals.
“This is really a good team effort on our part today,” said Meralco coach Norman Black. “I know Allen Durham is the best player on our team, but I thought we had a lot of contributions from a lot of people and we showed we can really be a good team in this game.”
The Bolts, despite the Road Warriors’ peskiness, kept their composure down the stretch and finished the decisive final three minutes of play steadily to take the victory.
From an 84-all tie with over three minutes left, Meralco produced a key 6-1 run that gave it a critical 90-85 cushion after a jumper from Durham with 1:53 remaining.
NLEX remained in striking distance, but a back-breaking triple from rookie Baser Amer with exactly one minute left shattered the hopes of the Road Warriors and allowed the Bolts to finally have a sigh of relief as their lead was safely stretched to seven, 95-88.
The roller-coaster campaign continued for NLEX, which dropped to 3-4 in seventh place after seeing its two-game winning streak snapped.
Meralco started out hot, taking an early 20-11 lead with under four minutes left in the opening canto after two free throws from Durham.
That eventually set the tone for the Bolts, who briefly held a double-digit lead, 44-34, in the closing seconds of the second period before taking a 44-36 advantage at halftime.
NLEX actually threatened several times in the second half, even taking a 64-58 lead at the 2:45 mark of the third following a basket from Sean Anthony that capped off an 18-5 surge in the middle of the quarter.
However, that would be the Road Warriors’ last hoorah as the Bolts swiftly recovered and regained control.
Meralco ended the third with a counter 12-2 run to get the lead back, 70-66, entering the payoff period. It would lead the rest of the way despite NLEX tying it up once in the closing minutes.
Henry Walker led all scorers with a game-high 38 points.
MERALCO 101 – Durham 31, Hodge 17, Dillinger 12, Nabong 12, Newsome 12, Faundo 10, Amer 7, Buenafe 0, Caram 0, Hugnatan 0.
NLEX 95 – Walker 38, Anthony13, Monfort 12, Taulava 10, Khobuntin 8, Baracael 4, Akl 3, Arboleda 3, Alas 2, Reyes 2, Soyud 0, Villanueva E. 0.
Quarters: 22-19, 44-36, 70-66, 101-95