Bolts make it to quarterfinals as No. 7
There’s no early exit for the Meralco Bolts even as the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters bowed out of the PBA Governors’ Cup with the most memorable win by an ousted squad over an early qualifier on Saturday.
Hobbled by injuries and distracted from their campaign in the Fiba Asia Champions Cup in Thailand where they placed fourth, the Bolts looked doomed in their bid for a third straight stint in the finals after a 94-99 loss to eventual also-ran NorthPort last Oct. 12 left them with a 1-6 win-loss card.
But Meralco somehow regained its winning touch and ran up four straight victories capped by a 111-81 rout of San Miguel Beer to gain at least a tie for the eighth and last slot.
Tied with the NLEX Road Warriors at 5-6, the Bolts finished seventh after the TNT KaTropa (4-7) failed to make it a three-way deadlock for No. 8 with a loss to top seed and defending champion Barangay Ginebra, 93-112, on Sunday.
NLEX finished eighth, thanks to an earlier 13-point win over ousted TNT.
The Road Warriors could have encountered complications in their qualifying bid after they ran into a determined ROS crew that put up a memorable farewell performance playing all-Filipino in an import-laced tournament.
With American import Terrence Watson forced to fly home to be with his wife and their newborn, Chris Tiu fired a career-high 30 points in his last playing day for ROS, which rallied from 16 points down en route to a 107-101 win to finish its campaign with a 3-8 record that surpassed only the 2-9 mark of NorthPort and the 1-10 slate of Columbian Dyip.
Columbian’s lone win came at the expense of ROS but if it’s any consolation, the Painters, who were missing three stalwarts, scored their fifth win in six games since Yeng Guiao left them to join NLEX.
Ironically, Tiu and several ROS players plus coach Caloy Garcia served as members of the Philippine team under Guiao in the Indonesia Asian Games last September.
The Bolts also found an unlikely gunner in Reynel Hugnatan, who marked his 40th birthday by firing 19 points behind the game-high 35 of Allen Durham. Meralco also exploited the lack of SMB’s offensive fire even as June Mar Fajardo continued to struggle in his second game from a foot injury that had sidelined him since Sept. 1.
With a final 6-5 card, SMB will likely tackle No. 3 Alaska in the quarterfinals with the Aces needing just a victory to advance. No. 4 Magnolia will also enjoy a twice-to-beat bonus against Blackwater even as Phoenix wound up No. 2 after beating Blackwater, 97-91, during Sunday’s opening game.