Meralco upsets Phoenix, books last semis seat in OT thriller
MANILA, Philippines – Both teams clearly wanted it, but in the end, the Meralco Bolts had more firepower left in their tank.
Baser Amer fueled Meralco's strong surge in overtime as the Bolts completed an upset of the Phoenix Fuel Maters, 108-103, to catch the last train to the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup semifinals at the Araneta Coliseum on Friday, November 9.
Meralco kicked off the extra period with an 8-0 explosion off back-to-back Amer threes, 102-94, then held off the Fuel Masters' late run behind Calvin Abueva and Matthew Wright.
Clutch baskets from league veteran Reynel Hugnatan and import Allen Durham kept the Bolts afloat in the last 75 seconds as the seventh-seeded Meralco overcame Phoenix's twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinal series.
The recharged Bolts will now face the third-seeded Alaska Aces in the best-of-five semifinals starting Sunday, November 11, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo, Rizal.
"What a hill that we had to climb to get to this point," said Meralco coach Norman Black. "Every game for the last 6 was pressure-laden. There was not much room for error both on offense and defense. I'm really happy for the players."
Durham proved why he's a two-time Best Import with a near-triple-double of 32 points, 21 rebounds and 9 assists. Amer came through big time with 26 points, 23 coming in the 2nd half and overtime.
Meralco – which trailed by as many as 16 points – looked headed for the win in regulation after Hugnatan calmly sank two penalty shots for a 94-91 lead.
But Phoenix rookie Jason Perkins negated that on the other end with a cold-blooded tying three in the last 7 seconds to force overtime, 94-94.
Amer led the Bolts' third-quarter fightback, ending the frame with a go-ahead jumper, 70-68, after a Nino Canaleta corner three.
Phoenix then made the necessary stops and distanced themselves off a Perkins three, 85-79, with 6 minutes left in regulation.
Amer, however, led another comeback in the clutch, draining a pull-up trey followed by an and-one floater, 88-91 at the 2:17 mark.
Durham completed Meralco's energized rally with a go-ahead layup, 92-91, in the last 67 ticks, and Hugnatan also cushioned the lead before Perkins' clutch triple forged extra time.
Perkins paced Phoenix's last gasp with 24 points and 6 boards. Wright had 20 points and Eugene Phelps also saw an 18-point, 23-board, 7-dime game go to waste.
Meralco 108 – Durham 32, Amer 26, Newsome 19, Salva 8, Canaleta 7, Hugnatan 6, Faundo 4, Tolomia 2, Caram 2, Dillinger 2.
Phoenix 103 – Perkins 24, Wright 20, Phelps 18, Chua 13, Intal 10, Abueva 10, Wilson 5, Revilla 2, Jazul 1, Kramer 0.
Quarters: 22-27, 40-50, 70-68, 94-94 (reg.), 108-103 (OT).