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Bolts end drought vs Beermen; Hotshots rally to beat Road Warriors

Meralco's Allen Durham soars for a basket against San Miguel Beermen during the nightcap of Sunday's PBA action at the Big Dome | PBA Images

MANILA, Philippines — Meralco gained a major breakthrough in franchise history last night as it ended a two-year losing spell versus San Miguel Beer and claimed playoff top seeding on a 104-101 conquest of the Beermen at the close of the PBA Governors Cup eliminations at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday night.

Reigning Best Import Allen Durham again came through with a monstrous game and himself presided over a crucial closing flurry that lifted the Bolts past the Beermen and into No. 1 finish in the elims with a 9-2 win-loss card.

The Bolts will enjoy a twice-to-beat advantage in taking on the eighth-seeded Blackwater Elite in the quarterfinals tomorrow.

“It’s a big win for the Meralco program,” said coach Norman Black on the achievement of the ballclub that’s in chase of a first PBA championship.

“The playoffs will be more difficult. We’ll focus now on preparing against Blackwater that has improved and has really been playing well as of late. We have to be ready,” Black also said.

With the loss, the grand slam-chasing Beermen, meanwhile, dropped all the way to sixth place. They play defending champion and third seed Barangay Ginebra in the quarters.

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The other quarters pairings pit No. 2 TnT KaTropa versus Rain or Shine and No. 4 Star opposite No. 5 NLEX.

 The Bolts, the Texters, the Kings and the Hotshots were the teams that earned the crucial twice-to-beat quarters incentive.

The Hotshots salvaged a spot in the Top Four as they rallied from 15 points down and upended the Road Warriors, 101-93, earlier in the night.

Meralco’s win over San Miguel also helped Star’s cause.

Durham provided a tremendous boost on Meralco’s stirring come-from-behind triumph over San Miguel with 35 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.

The hardworking Meralco import pushed the Bolts ahead to stay at 102-101 in a follow-up on his own miss with time down to 27.1 seconds.

Then after field-goal misses by the Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter and June Mar Fajardo, Durham made it a three-point lead in coolly making two foul shots with 3.2 seconds left.

Alex Cabagnot missed a tough three-point attempt at the buzzer, and the Bolts completed the big win marred by a commotion at halftime sparked by a verbal tussle between Durham and Ross.

The Bolts trailed by 18 in the first half but patiently stayed in the game before striking with a lethal attack at the finish to stun the Beermen and their fans.

“San Miguel is a tough champion team. They flexed their muscles early but we stayed with it, and we stayed with it,” said Durham.

“We did what we needed to do. We built a good momentum going into the playoffs,” said Star coach Chito Victolero on their win.

 “We moved the ball better in finding high-percentage shots in the second half. It’s good we recovered from our poor offense in the first half,” added Victolero.

The Hotshots erased NLEX’s 15-point lead in the first half and subsequently sent the Road Warriors out of the Top Four.

Among the highlight of the Hotshots’ second-half surge was Jio Jalalon beating the buzzer in the third period with a heave almost from mid court.

The Hotshots then went roaring in the fourth quarter, leading by as many as 14 in a key turnaround carrying the team to a triumphant finish in the elims.

PJ Simon fired 16 points, Paul Lee delivered 15 while Kris Acox, Aldrech Ramos and Mark Barroca added 14, 14 and 13, respectively, in the Hotshots’ balanced offense.

“Problemado kami sa opensa namin in the first half. Sa depensa, di kami nagka-problema,” said Victolero.

The Hotshots got into the groove offensively in the third, pummeling the Road Warriors, 39-25.

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