ALLEN DURHAM finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds to propel Meralco past Mahindra, 105-82, and advance to their fifth franchise semifinal appearance in the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup on Saturday at the Ynares Stadium, Antipolo City.
The Bolts bucked a slow start and managed to retake the lead in the second quarter before slowly piling the big cushion to put an end to the Final Four dreams of the Enforcer, who booked their first playoff ticket since joining the league in 2014.
Durham was just as dominant as he was in the elimination round, outplaying his counterpart, James White, who tallied 20 markers and 10 boards.
“This is an important game for us. We had a slow start. Good thing we came out strong in the second half,” Meralco Head Coach Norman Black said. “The semis is not the end. We need to win the championship,” he added.
Mahindra led by as many as 15 in the second period with a triple from Michael Digregorio, making it a 35-20 advantage, nine minutes left in the quarter.
The Bolts regained their composure as Chris Newsome sparked a 9-0 rally to cut the lead to six. After a brief exchange, the lead melted away as veteran Jimmy Alapag, Jared Dillinger and Cliff Hodge hit three triples in succession to take the lead at 46-43 with under three minutes to play before the half. Controlling the game at 84-61 entering the final frame, Meralco weathered Mahindra’s quick 6-0 blitz and fired an 8-0 counter, capped by a drive of Hodge to pull the game away at 92-67 midway into the last period. Meralco will face the winner of the TNT Katropa-Phoenix quarterfinal match, which was being played as of press time.
Katropa had the twice-to-beat advantage after finishing No. 1 in the elimination, and, if they hurdle past the first-timers Fuelmasters, it will be a sister company rivalry in the semifinals, as Barangay Ginebra also squares off with fellow Ramon Ang squad and defending champion San Miguel Beermen.
Newsome complemented Durham’s efforts with 19 points, while Hodge and Dillinger added 14 and 12 markers, respectively.