MANILA, Philippines – There were no blown leads this time.
Meralco redeemed itself from its collapse against San Miguel as the Bolts exacted revenge on the Beermen, 100-85, to barge into the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals at the Araneta Coliseum on Friday, March 18.
Armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, Meralco built a lead as big as 21 points and held off San Miguel in the final quarter to become the first team to reach the final four.
Tony Bishop electrified the Bolts with 32 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks – doing most of his damage in the third quarter where he unloaded 18 points to help give his side a 79-61 cushion.
Chris Newsome then picked up where Bishop left off in the fourth period, scoring 8 of his 22 points in the quarter as the Beermen only got within 12 points and barely posed a threat in the endgame.
Newsome, who also put up 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, and Meralco advanced to the semifinals for the fourth straight conference, with two of those playoff series victories coming at the expense of San Miguel.
It was also a payback win for the Bolts after they squandered a 26-point lead to the Beermen in a stunning 110-115 loss two weeks ago where import Shabazz Muhammad erupted for 57 points.
This time, though, the former NBA player got limited to a conference-low 24 points as he shot 8-of-19 from the field and missed all of his 6 three-point attempts.
Muhammad was even held scoreless in the second quarter, where Meralco turned a 33-36 deficit to a 48-40 lead thanks to a 15-4 run sparked by back-to-back Reynel Hugnatan triples.
“[T]he whole focus was on trying to slow down Shabazz and not allowing him to get another 57 points,” said Bolts head coach Norman Black.
“We were hoping to hold him down to 30. We thought that would be a good number. But I think we held him down to 24. So that was even better.”
Hugnatan finished with 9 points, all from long distance, Chris Banchero added 9 points and 3 rebounds, while Raymond Almazan had 8 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals in the win.
Terrence Romeo delivered 17 points and June Mar Fajardo tallied 12 points and 12 rebounds in the loss, which marked the third time in the last four conferences that San Miguel suffered a quarterfinals exit.
Meralco 100 – Bishop 100, Newsome 22, Banchero 9, Hugnatan 9, Almazan 8, Maliksi 6, Quinto 4, Black 4, Hodge 4, Baclao 2, Jose 0.
San Miguel 85 – Muhammad 24, Romeo 17, Fajardo 12, Perez 12, Ross 6, Lassiter 5, Brondial 5, Manuel 4, Tautuaa 0, Cruz 0.
Quarters: 26-26, 48-40, 79-61, 100-85.