Meralco keeps top 4 bid alive after barely edging Mahindra
MANILA, Philippines – The door remained open for the Meralco Bolts to book a top 4 spot after they squeaked past the Mahindra Enforcer, 86-83, to end the eliminations of the 2016 PBA Governors' Cup on Sunday, September 11 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Import Allen Durham banked in the go-ahead two-pointer off a spin move, giving Meralco the lead for good, 84-83, with 46.5 ticks left in the game to avoid a costly meltdown that would've sabotaged the Bolts' twice-to-beat hopes.
Durham, who poured 20 of his game-high 34 points in the second half and had 17 rebounds plus 3 blocks, also secured possession in a mad scramble and sank two free throws for the final tally with 1.2 ticks on the clock.
"It's nice to actually win a close game for a change," said head coach Norman Black, who won his 600th PBA game, just one win short of tying legendary coach Baby Dalupan's number.
"This was a little bit scary. The ball bounced our way today and we won the basketball game."
Meralco finished with a 6-5 record tied with Mahindra and a 4-way tie possible either with Alaska or NLEX and Phoenix. The Bolts, having defeated all those teams, are assured of a playoff for that last twice-to-beat advantage in the top 4.
"It's good to have a win heading into that playoff to build some confidence," Black said. "We played hard. Now we'll just have to wait and see where we fall."
Jared Dillinger contributed 12 markers and 8 boards off the bench while Chris Newsome added 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Newsome's crucial miscue on an errant pass that gave Mahindra a serious shot at taking the lead in the final 11.6 seconds, if not for an Aldrech Ramos handoff that was too strong for import James White to handle.
Reynel Hugnatan and Jimmy Alapag added 9 and 7 points, respectively, as Meralco ended a two-game slide.
"We're not the most talented team in the PBA but we come out and play hard. It's nice to get a win," said Black.
Mahindra, on the other hand, fell from the top spot early in the conference to now hoping for a Barangay Ginebra victory over Phoenix on Wednesday, September 14, which could give them a playoff for the twice-to-beat.
White led the Enforcer with 27 points and 12 rebounds, while Ramos had 17 points and 9 rebounds. LA Revilla came off the bench for 12 markers, 3 boards, and 4 assists.
Meralco (86): Durham 34, Dillinger 12, Newsome 10, Hugnatan 9, Alapag 7, Amer 4, Hodge 3, Uyloan 3, Faundo 2, Nabong 2, Al-Hussaini 0.
Mahindra (83): White 27, Ramos 17, Revilla 12, Yee 9, Taha 8, Aguilar 4, Guinto 2, Digregorio 2, Agovida 2, Mandani 0, Webb 0, Galanza 0, Bagatsing 0, Ballesteros 0, De Vera 0.
Quarter scores: 25-22, 50-45, 71-62, 86-83.