by Jonas Terrado
ANTIPOLO CITY – The Meralco Bolts refused to slow down despite a difficult journey from the bottom, frustrating the Alaska Aces last night with a 97-92 victory and take a 1-0 lead in their PBA Governors’ Cup best-of-five semifinal series at the Ynares Center here.
Reigning Best Import Allen Durham pounded the Aces inside for 32 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists even as Chris Newsome, Baser Amer, and Reynel Hugnatan scored key baskets late to preserve the Bolts’ win, their seventh straight after a 1-6 record midway into the eliminations.
Meralco showed no signs of fatigue despite being two days removed from a hard-fought overtime upset of Phoenix in the quarterfinals. In fact, the Bolts used that performance to their advantage and gain a headstart in the series.
The Bolts will try to get another victory tomorrow night when the series shifts to the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City and gain a step closer toward a third consecutive trip to the finals of the season-ending conference.
“We’re just running on adrenaline, running on emotions,” said Meralco coach Norman Black, who orchestrated the outcome on the eve of his 61st birth anniversary.
“It’s really a team effort and it feels to get a good start, but we know we have to play two days from now and it’s gonna be a battle again,” he added.
Newsome had 16 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, Amer added 14 points, and Hugnatan produced nine points and seven rebounds for Meralco.
Best Import pacesetter Mike Harris delivered 37 points and 18 rebounds but his big numbers went in vain as the Aces trailed by a high of 16 points, 47-31, late in the second period.
The other semifinal series between Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Magnolia resumes today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, with the Hotshots eyeing a 2-0 lead in the 7 p.m. match.
Meanwhile, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas President Al Panlilio announced at halftime the appointment of Bong Go as head of delegation of the national team for the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.
The former special assistant to President Duterte and senatorial candidate in the 2019 elections was given the position through the suggestion of national coach Yeng Guiao ahead of the two home matches against Kazakhstan on Nov. 30 and Iran on Dec. 3.
Meralco 97 – Durham 32, Newsome 16, Amer 14, Hugnatan 9, Caram 7, Faundo 6, Canaleta 6, Tolomia 5, Salva 2, Dillinger 0.
Alaska 92 – Harris 37, Banchero 16, Manuel 14, Casio 5, Enciso 5, Exciminiano 5, Teng 4, Pascual 4, Galliguez 2, Baclao 0, Racal 0, Thoss 0.
Quarters: 25-17, 47-34, 72-56, 97-92.