KIA blanks Meralco, one step closer to first playoffs trip
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The rare presence of Philippine sports icon playing coach Manny Pacquiao was enough for an inspired upset.
The KIA Carnival closed the game on a 17-8 run and kept its playoff hopes alive with an 88-85 defeat of the Meralco Bolts in the 2015 PBA Governors' Cup on Wednesday, June 24 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The expansion franchise KIA is one step closer to making its first ever playoff appearance as it still needs Barangay Ginebra to lose against NLEX in the day's second game in order to advance.
Import Hamady N'Diaye led the Carnival with 24 points, 19 rebounds, including 7 on the offensive end, and 6 blocks.
Guard LA Revilla finished with 16 markers, 5 assists and 5 rebounds while Mark Yee and Karl Dehesa had 13 and 10 points, respectively.
“Masaya ako sa performance ng aking mga players na masipag sa page-ensayo na nagawa nilang sundin yung mga pinapagawa namin sa kanila,” said playing coach Manny Pacquiao who was present at KIA’s must-win game for just his second game attendance all conference.
“Lahat ng sakripisyo sa training nagawa dito sa laro na ‘to.”
(I’m happy with the performance of my players who are hardworking at practice and they were able to do what we wanted them to do. All the sacrifices in training they translated to this game.)
Import Andre Emmett led the Bolts with 35 points on 15-of-31 from the field and 14 rebounds. Gunner Gary David was the only other Meralco player in double figures with 14 points.
Meralco slipped to 7th seed and will face the twice-to-beat San Miguel Beer in the quarterfinals. The Bolts ended the eliminations at 6-5 and on a two-game losing skid.
KIA's win also eliminated Commissioner’s Cup champion Talk 'N Text, which missed the playoffs for the first time in 6 conferences.
The Carnival kept in step with the Bolts all through the game and even led by as much as 9 points in the first half.
They reclaimed the lead briefly, 70-69, with 8:58 left to play after a Dehesa triple. But Meralco countered with an 8-1 run to take a 77-71 advantage midway in the payoff period.
Meralco then went cold as Dehesa and Revilla sparked a searing 17-8 run to close out the game.
Joshua Webb emerged as the unlikely hero for KIA as he buried the go-ahead open three-pointer with 1:15 left, 83-80, after missing his previous 4 triple attempts.
The Carnival never relinquished the lead as N'Diaye grabbed a crucial rebound and split from the line to make it a two-possession ballgame, 84-80, with under a minute remaining.
Reynel Hugnatan gave Meralco some hope with a jumper that cut the lead to two, but Revilla calmly sank a pair of free throws to ice the game, 86-82, with 18.6 ticks to go.
The Bolts scrambled for a three-point shot and got the break as David was fouled taking the third triple attempt. He sank all 3 free throws to make it a one-point affair but Revilla kept is composure from the stripe to seal the win.
Nothing is set in stone yet for KIA, but Pacquiao and his heady assistant coach Chito Victolero remain positive this won’t be the Carnival’s last game.
But in case they don’t make it, Pacquiao, who has stated he will be present at KIA’s next game if they advance, insisted winning 11 out of 23 outings in its first season is not bad.
“At least marami kami natutunan and dagdag experience sa kanila ito na magagamit nila next season (At least we learned a lot and this is added experience for the players that they can apply next season).”
KIA 88 - Ndiaye 24, Revilla 16, Yee 13, Dehesa 10, Buensuceso 8, Avenido 6, Webb 5, Cawaling 2, Pascual 2, Bagatsing 2, Deutchman 0, Chang 0, Alvarez 0.
Meralco 85 - Emmett 35; David 14, Hugnatan 9, Atkins 6, Hodge 5, Dillinger 4, Nabong 3, Guevarra 3, Anthony 2, Ildefonso 2, Cortez 2, Ando 0.
Quarter scores: 22-19; 44-41; 61-63; 88-85.