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Meralco pips Mahindra, clinches final twice-to-beat edge

By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--The Meralco Bolts may be the de jure fourth seed in the PBA Governors' Cup quarterfinals.

But for the Mahindra Enforcers, they can quickly bounce back as it was just the start of a de facto best-of-three series.

Meralco scored a 104-99 victory against Mahindra in the playoff for the fourth spot or what could count as Game 1 of the race-to-two quarterfinal affair at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday night.

The Bolts bounced back from a poor second quarter that even spilled to the early parts of the third quarter by going on a 21-2 run to take a 62-59 lead.

Aldrech Ramos made three free throws off a Cliff Hodge foul to knot the game at 62 apiece, but back-to-back triples from Jared Dillinger put Meralco ahead anew, 68-62.

"We didn't have the energy to start the game. But we picked up our game in the third quarter," said Coach Norman Black after the game regarding the third period blast.

Mahindra then went on an 18-6 run that spanned to the opening basket of the fourth quarter to retake the lead, 80-74.

After an exchange of shots, the Bolts scored seven unanswered points to reclaim the advantage, 85-84, but James White put the Enforcers back up, 86-85, with his own field goal.

Meralco threatened to pull away after outscoring Mahindra, 16-8, in the latter part of the fourth to lead, 101-94, with 59.8 seconds left.

But Mahindra scored five straight, including three charities from KG Canaleta, to cut the lead to just two, 101-99, with 17.9 seconds left.

Jimmy Alapag left the door open for the Enforcers as he only made one of two free throws to slightly stretch the Bolts' lead to just three, 102-99, with 16.2 seconds remaining.

But Canaleta muffed the potential game-tying three even as Baser Amer made two more from the foul line to seal the win.

Allen Durham led Meralco with 34 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals, while Dillinger added 22 markers off the bench.

Chris Newsome had an impressive all-around performance with 12 points, five rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and two blocks.

White had 22 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and one steal to lead Mahindra, which has now lost its fourth straight match, in what would technically be its playoff debut.

Playing Coach Manny Pacquiao is actually reactivated to the active roster for the said match, but he was not at the venue because of his senatorial job.

The official Game 1 of their quarterfinal series, or "Game 2" of their virtual best-of-three affair, is set on Saturday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.

Box Scores:

Meralco 104-Durham 34, Dillinger 22, Amer 16, Faundo 7, Hodge 4, Hugnatan 4, Al-Hussaini 2, Nabong 2, Alapag 1, Uyloan 0

Mahindra 99 White 22, Ramos 20, Taha 16, Canaleta 10, Revilla 10, Yee 10, Ballesteros 6, Digregorio 5, Agovida 0, Bagatsing 0, Guinto 0, Jaime 0, Paniamogan 0

Quarterscores: 26-29, 41-53, 69-71, 104-99

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