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Meralco delivered the dagger on top seed TNT KaTropa as it scored an electrifying 94-88 win in Game 4 of their semifinal series to clinch its first finals appearance in the PBA Governors’ Cup last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Bolts forward Cliff Hodge finished with a career-best 32 points, delivering the big shots late in the game including a booming three-pointer that gave Meralco a 91-85 advantage with 49.6 seconds left.
That triple by Hodge came after Ranidel de Ocampo buried his own trey that cut the Meralco lead to 88-85 with 1:03 left.
Best Import contender Allen Durham had a double-double 19 points and 16 rebounds, while veteran forward Reynel Hugnatan contributed 16 points and rookie Chris Newsome added 15 points.
This is the first time for Meralco to make it to the finals since it entered the pro league back in 2011 after purchasing the franchise of Sta. Lucia Realty, completing a magical conference for the Norman Black- mentored squad.
“I am really happy for the team, for the players,” said Black, who is only in his second season with the franchise after helping the same TNT squad win the Philippine Cup back in 2013.
“They worked hard, they put on the extra work. We’d come a long way since the first conference. It’s not over yet but I can’t be more proud of my players and am happy for the Meralco community,” he added.
The Bolts await the winner of the other semifinal pairing between No. 2 seed and defending champion San Miguel Beer, which forced Game 5, and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
The Beermen and the Gin Kings are scheduled to collide in a do-or-die today at the Big Dome.
Game 1 of the Finals is set Friday.
MERALCO 94 – Hodge 32, Durham 19, Hugnatan 16, Newsome 15, Nabong 4, Alapag 3, Amer 2, Faundo 2, Uyloan 1.
TNT KATROPA 88 – Castro 25, De Ocampo 15, Ammons 10, Rosario 10, Tautuaa 8, Fonacier 6, Williams 6, Madanly 5, Reyes 3, Rosales 0, Guevarra 0.
Quarters: 18-23, 40-44, 64-61, 94-88.