Meralco back for unfinished business
Any which way but lose.
Meralco went through different routes against Star and emerged triumphant in all three to barge into the finals for the second straight year of the PBA Governors’ Cup last week.
After going through a playoff to eliminate underdog Blackwater in the quarterfinals, Meralco, the top seed after the eliminations, pulled off a surprise three-game sweep of Star in the best-of-five semifinals and gained another crack at redemption after a painful loss in the title series here to Barangay Ginebra last year.
The Gin Kings were trying to oust the TNT KaTropa in Game 4 of their own Final 4 duel at presstime with Ginebra holding on to a 2-1 series lead secured with a scrambling 106-103 win on Friday.
If TNT survives, the rubber match will be played Tuesday at Mall of Arena in Pasay.
The Star Hotshots, who looked impressive in booting out NLEX in the quarterfinal playoffs, also appeared set to pin what would have been only the fourth loss on the Bolts in the tournament in their opening semifinal encounter.
After a blistering 20-3 start against an anemic-shooting foe, the Hotshots stayed in front until midway in the fourth quarter even as the Bolts seemed doomed with Allen Durham leaving the game after hurting his right ankle.
But the Bolts kept on plugging with Jared Dillinger rediscovering his touch to ignite a 9-0 closing salvo from 63-66 that allowed Meralco to escape with a 72-66 decision.
The final burst included a layup from Durham, who returned despite a limp. Durham didn’t look injured in the second game which Meralco dominated after a 28-10 opening blast en route to a 98-74 rout and was the Best Import Awardee of 2016 all over again in Game 3 when the Bolts closed the door on the Hotshots with a 91-88 overtime decision.
Star put up another strong stand in Game 3 minus the injured Paul Lee, who underwent surgery on his knee last week, but in an unexpected twist, the Hotshots failed to score in the last two minutes of regulation after taking an 83-79 lead. By the time the Star drought ended in overtime, Meralco was on the way to victory.
Ginebra and TNT swapped impressive wins in their first two games with the Kings taking Game 1, 121-94, and the KaTropa bouncing back, 103-96, in Game 2.
They then waged a classic tie-breaking Game 3 match eventually decided by the breaks of the game.
After Joe Devance missed a fastbreak layup and Scottie Thompson bungled two free throws, Glen Rice Jr. had a chance to send the game into overtime but missed his three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Rice finished with a PBA career-sbest 44 points.
The best-of-seven finals starts this Friday in Lucena City.
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