Meralco zaps into first PBA finals appearance, ousts TNT

By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--Meralco clinched the first seat in the PBA Governors' Cup finals after eliminating TNT, 94-88, in Game 4 of their semifinal series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Monday night.

The Bolts took the best-of-five series, 3-1, to claim their first-ever PBA finals appearance since buying the Sta. Lucia franchise in 2010.

Meralco slowly fought back from an eight-point first half deficit in the third quarter and took the lead with exactly four minutes left in the quarter. The team would stretch the lead to eight early in the fourth.

Jayson Castro tried to carry the fight for TNT, but he was slapped with a second Flagrant Foul Penalty 1 on a hard foul against Chris Newsome that sent him off the court. Castro incurred his first flagrant foul also against Newsome.

That said development turned out to be crucial as Cliff Hodge scored clutch baskets to keep the KaTropa at bay.

Hodge finished with a career-high 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting with four rebounds and one assist, while Allen Durham added 19 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, one block, and one steal for Meralco, who will take on the winner of the Ginebra-San Miguel game on Tuesday night at the said venue in the best-of-seven finals, which is Meralco's first finals appearance in a top-tier basketball league since winning the 1971 MICAA Open Conference .

Castro led TNT with 25 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.

Box Scores:

Meralco 94-Hodge 32, Durham 19, Hugnatan 16, Newsome 15, Nabong 4, Alapag 3, Amer 2, Faundo 2, Uyloan 1, Guevarra 0

TNT 88-Castro 25, De Ocampo 15, Ammons 10, Rosario 10, Tautuaa 8, Fonacier 6, Williams 6, Madanly 5, Reyes 3, Rosales 0

Quarterscores: 18-23, 40-44, 64-61, 94-88

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