MANILA, Philippines – Jared Dillinger and import Allen Durham combined for 23 points in the fourth quarter and the Meralco Bolts frustrated the Mahindra Enforcer, 104-99, to secure the last twice-to-beat quarterfinals advantage in the 2016 PBA Governors Cup on Wednesday, September 21 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts, who finished the eliminations at 6-5, will enter the top 8 as the fourth seed and will face the fifth seed Enforcer on Saturday, September 24.
Mahindra, which once topped the league early in the eliminations, skidded to its fourth straight defeat and consequently blew all 4 chances at securing a twice-to-beat.
"I thought it was a story of two halves. In the first half, we just really couldn't get our game going. Defensively, we're a step slow. We just came out flat and we really didn't have the energy to start the basketball game," said Meralco head coach Norman Black, who tallied his 601st PBA win, tying late legendary coach Baby Dalupan.
Two-time Grand Slam coach Tim Cone holds the all-time record of wins with 833, followed by Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao with 637, per league statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
"Fortunately for us at halftime, I'm not sure what I said to the players, but they came out and played with so much energy in the third quarter and we had that one stretch where we were able to erase that deficit and take the lead from Mahindra that probably made the big difference in the game," Black added.
Dillinger led Meralco's fourth quarter surge after the Bolts trailed 69-71 to end the third and by as much as 16 early in the second half.
The athletic swingman came off the bench and shot 4-of-8 from downtown for 22 points in almost 30 minutes of play. He buried a big triple with a shade under a minute remaining to give Meralco a 7-point cushion that Mahindra would not be able to overcome.
Durham dropped a game-high 34 points on top of 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Guard Baser Amer finished with 16 points and 4 assists off the bench while Chris Newsome added 12 markers, 8 boads, and two blocks.
Having 6 players in double figures was not enough for Mahindra to break its slump, even as they sliced Meralco's 101-94 lead down to 101-99 on 3 Niño Canaleta free throws off an errant foul by Newsome with 17 ticks left.
Canaleta, playing in his first game back since undergoing an appendectomy, tried to rescue the Enforcer in the final possession as he attempted to fish for another foul from beyond the arc.
But Newsome quickly learned his lesson and instead stood his ground with his arms raised to challenge Canaleta. The whistle never came and Meralco dusted off the victory with two charities from Amer.
Import James White topped the Enforcer with 22 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists while Aldrech Ramos added 20 markers. Paolo Taha chipped in 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Canaleta, LA Revilla and Mark Yee all had 10 points apiece.
Meralco (104): Durham 34, Dillinger 22, Amer 16, Faundo 7, Hodge 4, Hugnatan 4, Al-Hussaini 2, Nabong 2, Alapag 1, Uyloan 0.
Mahindra (99): White 22, Ramos 20, Taha 16, Canaleta 10, Revilla 10, Yee 10, Ballesteros 6, Digregorio 5, Agovida 0, Bagatsing 0, Guinto 0, Jaime 0, Paniamogan 0.
Quarter scores: 26-29; 41-53; 69-71; 104-99.