Meralco sends Mahindra crashing to book semifinals ticket
ANTIPOLO, Philippines – Allen Durham fired a game-high 24 points with 16 rebounds, 6 assists, and a block as the Meralco Bolts blasted the dispirited Mahindra Enforcer, 105-82, to book the third semifinals ticket in the 2016 PBA Governors' Cup on Saturday, September 24 at the Ynares Center here.
Meralco, holder of a twice-to-beat advantage, needed only one game to dispose of Mahindra, which after once leading the league early in the conference sputtered to a 5-game losing skid to end its season.
"We thought this game was a must-win situation for us. We did not want to have to play them another game because we knew if we lost to them we'd give them confidence coming into the next game," said head coach Norman Black.
"We still got off to a slow start in the first quarter but eventually we got our bearings in the second quarter, we started playing better defense and started getting rebounds."
Rookie Chris Newsome poured 19 points on 9-of-12 field goal shooting while Cliff Hodge had 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists. Jared Dillinger contributed 12 markers and 5 boards despite making only 4 of his 12 shot attempts.
After a forgettable 1-10 Philippine Cup showing early this season, the Bolts rebounded strong with back-to-back semifinals appearances – a first in franchise history.
"The team has come a long way in the last two conferences. A lot of that has to do with the fact we had two quality imports – Arinze Onuaku last conference and Allen Durham this conference," Black explained, looking back at the team's journey.
"But also I think the locals have grown a lot, they've gotten a lot better, they're used to the system already. We may not be the most talented team in the league but we do go out and execute offensively and defensively to give us a chance of winning."
"The semifinals is not the end-all, we want to win a championship but for our program it's really a big occurence for us winning this game to get to the semifinals for the second straight conference," Black added
The Bolts bucked a sloppy start to the second quarter, erasing a 15-point lead in about 9 minutes to take a 50-45 advantage at the break.
With a humming offensive flow, Meralco broke the game wide open early in the third. With Mahindra out-rebounded by 55-35 and a 25-14 disparity in assists favoring the Bolts, the Enforcer never truly threatened from that point on.
Meralco cruised to a 25-point lead, 92-67, in the final frame and all the way to the last 4.
James White topscored for Mahindra with 20 points and 10 rebounds while Michael DiGregorio was the only other player in double figures with 14 points. Usual suspects Niño Canaleta and LA Revilla had only 5 and 3 points, respectively.
Canaleta went two-of-7 from the field and missed 4 of his 5 3-point attempts.
Mahindra lost its last 3 games to Meralco, from the final elimination round match to the playoff for the twice-to-beat and to this quarterfinals matchup.
Meralco will face the winner of the game between top-seeded TNT and eighth seed Phoenix in a best-of-5 series.
San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra have set up the other semifinals pairing.
Meralco (105): Durham 24, Newsome 19, Hodge 14, Dillinger 12, Amer 7, Alapag 6, Faundo 6, Hugnatan 6, Nabong 5, Caram 2, Chua 2, Guevarra 2, Uyloan 0, Al-Hussaini 0, Buenafe 0.
Mahindra (82): White 20, Digregorio 14, Guinto 8, Agovida 7, Paniamogan 7, Taha 6, Canaleta 5, Jaime 5, Ballesteros 4, Ramos 3, Revilla 3, Bagatsing 0, Gallanza 0, Yee 0.
Quarter scores: 18-26, 50-45, 84-61, 105-82.