|Baser Amer's back-to-back cold-blooded triples in overtime helped the Bolts slay the Fuel Masters. Dennis Acosta|
By Ivan Saldajeno
QUEZON CITY--Being a team that started the PBA Governors' Cup 1-6, seeing Meralco make the semifinals is an afterthought.
On Friday night, the unthinkable happened.
The Bolts overcame the Phoenix Fuel Masters' twice-to-beat quarterfinal advantage and moved on to the Final Four with a 108-103 win at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Meralco overcame a 16-point first half deficit and a late seven-point hole in regulation and made a booming start in the overtime period to snatch the semifinal spot away from Phoenix.
Coach Louie Alas' gamble of keeping his point guards on the bench until late in the first quarter appeared to be paying dividends as the Fuel Masters raced to a 46-30 lead with 3:39 remaining in the second period.
But the Bolts came alive late in the third period and even took a 70-68 advantage entering the fourth.
Phoenix restored order and went up, 91-84, with 3:01 to play in regulation.
Meralco, however, answered with a 10-0 run go up, 94-91, with 19 seconds remaining.
Jason Perkins eventually forced the extra session with a right wing triple with 7.4 to play in regulation, while his teammates forced Allen Durham to a tightly contested jumper that only hit the rim at the end of the first 48 minutes.
The Bolts opened overtime with eight straight points capped by back-to-back triples from Baser Amer to take a 102-94 lead with 3:22 left.
The Fuel Masters answered with six unanswered points of their own, the last five from Calvin Abueva, to cut the lead down to two, 102-100, with 1:31 remaining.
Reynel Hugnatan then made a huge jumper with 1:15 to play, while Durham added two more free throws to stretch the lead to six, 106-100.
Matt Wright kept Phoenix in the game with a needed triple with 20.1 seconds left, but Durham sealed the win with two charities in the next play.
Durham finished with 31 points, 21 rebounds, nine assists, and one block, while Amer added 26 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals for Meralco, which will face Alaska in a best-of-five series starting Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Jason Perkins made 24 points, six rebounds, and two assists for Phoenix, which failed to enter the semifinals despite entering the quarterfinals as the second seed.
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