(Mall of Asia Arena)
7p.m. -- Alaska vs. Meralco
Game 1 -- Meralco 97, Alaska 92.
SEVEN straight wins, including six do-or-die games dating back to the eliminations, should be enough reason for two-time PBA Governors’ Cup runner-up Meralco to relax a bit.
But don’t tell that to import Allen Durham.
In fact, Durham even urged his teammates to keep their focus and maintain the same intensity that worked perfectly in the past seven games.
“It is kinda nice to relax a little bit now but we don’t want to relax,” said Durham after posting a double-double of 32 points and 14 rebounds in Meralco’s 97-92 win over Alaska Milk in Game 1 of their best-of-five semifinal series at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
“It’s been working for us to keep the intensity up and keep playing the way we’ve been playing so we’re gonna keep trying to have that mentality that we’ve been having the past few games,” added Durham before the series shifts to the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay for Game 2 at 7 p.m. today.
“Everybody’s peaking at the right time.We’re playing well right now. Hopefully, we just keep going and ride on this streak as long as we can,” added the 30-year-old Durham, who won Best Import trophy twice in 2016 and 2017.
Even Alaska coach Alex Compton had all praises for the work done by Durham so far.
“He (Durham) was so awesome and he was so efficient,” said Compton, even citing Durham’s remarkable 13-of-19 shooting from the floor.
But the 6-6 Durham is not only Alaska’ biggest problem right now.
Baser Amer, the third-year point guard from Davao, is providing the kind of leadership that Meralco coach Norman Black badly needs during crucial moments of the game.
Amer, hailed as the “Second Coming” of former PBA MVP Jimmy Alapag, finished with 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists in the Bolts’ seventh straight win that put them closer to a return to the finals of the season-ending, import-flavored tournament.
But it was the leadership of the 26-year-old Davao native that caught the attention even of long-time PBA fans.
“We’re trying to fight everyday,” said Black, adding the Bolts’ two tough wins aganst Phoenix Petroleum in the quarterfinals did good for the team.
“And it’s really good that Durham takes the lead as a good import, and his teammates follow.”
Alaska, which advanced to the semis by eliminating top favorite San Miguel Beer also in the quarterfinals, faces daunting task in their bid to even the series with ace gunner Chris Banchero having problems with his right ankle.
Compton is expected to limit the playing time of Banchero, who had 16 points, four rebounds and four assists in the Aces’ losing effort.
Import Mike Harris, who finished with 37 points and 18 rebounds, and Vic Manuel, who added 14 points, will have to take up the scoring load for the Aces in case of limited minutes for Banchero.
“It’s up to coach Alex (Compton) but I really hope to play big minutes,” said Banchero, who twisted his ankle after playing 31 minutes.
“It’s a huge game for us. We can’t afford to go down 2-0 against a team like Meralco. That’s going to be a big problem.” he added.
“we need to even out the series and I can promise you, we’re going to come out with a lot more fire than we did in that first half.”