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Bolts return to PBA finals

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/PBA IMAGES

Ranidel De Ocampo has churned out countless highlight reels throughout his career in a TNT uniform.

On Thursday night, the 13-year veteran brought his winning act to the Meralco Bolts.

De Ocampo hit one of his patented jumpers that keyed a 91-88 overtime win at the expense of the Star Hotshots to send the Bolts back to the finals of the PBA Governors’ Cup.

“It’s really hard to close out the series because our opponents are in a do-or-die situation,” said De Ocampo, whose shot near the top of the arc with 1:17 remaining provided the cushion that Meralco badly needed in the game at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Allen Durham again made a strong case to replicate his personal reward anew after scoring 24 points on top of 19 rebounds and six assists.

But a far more meaningful hardware has kept the reigning best import highly motivated.

“It’s been our goal since the beginning of the conference to be in the finals. Now, we’re back,” said Durham.

Effectively filling up the void left by the injured Paul Lee, Mark Barroca and rookie Jio Jalalon picked up the slack for the Hotshots, who fought for survival on sustained grit and hustle before being swept in their best-of-five semifinal series.

Lee was ruled out the rest of the season for the ailing left knee that forced Star coach Chito Victolero to bench his prized guard in Game 2.

He was scheduled to go through surgery early Friday and would rest six to eight weeks to heal completely.

TNT KaTropa, meanwhile, hopes to keep control of its own best-of-five affair against Barangay Ginebra.

The Texters have been consistently holding their own against Barangay Ginebra’s imposing frontline and will again have to cut down the Gin Kings to size anew if they want to score a crucial Game 3 victory Friday also at the Big Dome.

“We always believe that we’re capable of beating Ginebra. But it takes a lot of focus and a lot of effort to do that,” said TNT coach Nash Racela.

Sealing all possible gaps in the lane, the KaTropa leveled the semifinal showdown by humbling the Gin Kings, 103-96, on a road trip in Batangas City last Wednesday.

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