TWO-TIME PBA Governors’ Cup runner-up Meralco is alive and kicking.
With back-to-back Best Import winner Allen Durham leading the way, Meralco shocked No. 2 seed Phoenix, 99-74, in their quarterfinal playoff and lived to fight another day at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
The Bolts and the Fuel Masters will meet again at 7 p.m. on Friday to determine who between them will advance to the semifinal series against either Alaska Milk or San Miguel Beer.
Durham asserted himself anew with a double-double of 26 points and 16 rebounds for the Bolts, who have won five straight games to keep alive their title bid in this season-ending conference where they finished runners-up to Barangay Ginebra the past two seasons.
The Bolts also avenged their 96-86 loss to Phoenix in the elimination round.
Understandably, Meralco coach Norman Black was pleased with the performance of his boys.
“Tonight was all about our defense, said Black. “From start to finish, we were able to execute defensively.
“In the first half, we struggled to score the basketball mainly because Phoenix is also a very good defensive team. We really clamped down better on defense and our shots started falling (in the second half).”
The Bolts, who need to beat the Fuel Masters twice in the quarterfinals, relied on one big offensive push in the third period to secure the all-important win.
Unable to get the job done in the first two quarters, the Bolts leaned on a crippling 12-0 run initiated by Durham, Chris Newsome, Reynel Hugnatan and Baser Amer to open up a 60-45 advantage.
The y never looked back from there.
The closest the Fuel Masters could get from there was 63-72 on a two-handed slam dunk by import Eugene Phelps.
Phelps finished with 27 points and 17 rebounds while Calvin Abueva added 18 points for Phoenix, which finished with its lowest output in a game in head coach Louie Alas’ tenure.
PBA statistics chief Fidel Mangonon said Phoenix’s 72 points tied its the lowest it scored in a loss to Talk N Text in the 2018 Philippine Cup.
Meralco (90)-- Durham 26, Newsome 16, Amer 14, Tolomia 9, Canaleta 9, Hugnatan 7, Salva 5, Dillinger 2, Faundo 2, Hodge 0, Ballesteros 0, Caram 0, Jamito 0.
Phoenix (74)-- Phelps 27, Abueva 18, Perkins 9, Wright 8, Chua 6, Intal 4, Jazul 2, Revilla 0, Kramer 0, Wilson 0, Mendoza 0.
Quarterscores: 15-17, 33-35, 66-55, 90-74.