MANILA, Philippines – In a dramatic head-to-head battle between two of the PBA’s best imports, Alaska’s Mike Harris got the last laugh over Meralco’s Allen Durham to propel his team on the cusp of reaching the finals.
Harris delivered a near triple-double outing as the Aces eked out a 104-102 Game 3 win over the Bolts in their best-of-five semifinals duel of the 2018 Governors’ Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome on Thursday, November 15.
The 35-year-old reinforcement submitted team-highs of 31 points, 24 rebounds and 7 assists, and most importantly, scored his team’s last 9 points to help Alaska gain a 2-1 series lead.
With the score knotted at 100-all in the final minute, Harris rebounded his own miss and completed an and-one play that put the Aces up by 3 points with a little under 20 seconds left.
Durham narrowed the Bolts’ deficit to a whisker with a quick bucket, 102-103, and immediately fouled Harris, who then split his freebies and kept the comeback door ajar for Meralco.
Left with no timeouts, Durham had to race the whole length of the court only to witness his potential game-tying layup rim out and Reynel Hugnatan miss his putback attempt as the Aces secured the triumph.
“That’s one of those games where nobody deserved to lose,” Alaska head coach Alex Compton told reporters after breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Alaska, which has won the last two games after dropping the series-opener, shoots for a third straight win in Game 4 for their first finals appearance since the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup.
Simon Enciso delivered 17 points and 5 assists, Chris Banchero finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds and Nonoy Baclao chipped in 11 markers in the win.
Durham saw his 37-point, 13-rebound and 8-assist outing go to waste for Meralco, which is now on the verge of seeing its bid for a third straight finals appearance in the season-ending conference crushed.
Thanks to Durham, the Bolts enjoyed a 64-53 advantage midway through the 3rd quarter until the Aces underwent a major revamp to enter the final frame with a slim 75-74 lead.
It was nip-and-tuck battle in the 4th period, with no team leading by more than 6 points.
Hugnatan churned out 19 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists and drilled in two key triples in the 4th quarter that gave Meralco a 98-97 lead before Harris took over for Alaska.
Chris Newsome had 18 points and 5 rebounds but fouled out with 16 seconds left while Baser Amer added 11 points and 3 assists in the losing effort.
Game 4 is on Saturday, November 17, at the same venue.
Alaska 104 – Harris 31, Enciso 17, Banchero 17, Baclao 11, Manuel 8, Casio 7, Thoss 6, Cruz 4, Racal 3, Exciminiano 0, Potts 0.
Meralco 102 – Durham 37, Hugnatan 19, Newsome 18, Amer 11, Caram 4, Faundo 4, Salva 3, Dillinger 3, Lanete 3, Canaleta 0, Tolomia 0.
Quarters: 25-22, 47-53, 75-74, 104-102.