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Bolts disconnect Elite, claim Final Four slot

Baser Amer during the quarterfinals clash of Meralco and Blackwater. The Bolts knocked the Elite out of playoff contention Thursday night at the Big Dome. PBA Images

MANILA, Philippines — Meralco overcame Henry Walker’s huge 27-point first-half explosion as the playoff top seeds asserted themselves in the payoff period and salvaged a 104-96 win over the gritty Blackwater Elite to claim a berth in the PBA Governors Cup Final Four at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.

Baser Amer came through with his own big numbers in the final half with 22 points and drew the needed help from Garvo Lanete and Jared Dillinger as they keyed a crucial turnaround carrying the Bolts to the best-of-five semifinals versus the Star Hotshots.

Meanwhile, TNT KaTropa and Rain or Shine, the playoff second seed and seventh-ranked squad that are now on equal footing, dispute the last semis seat in a do-or-die encounter tonight, also at the Big Dome.

Game time is at 7 p.m. with the momentum and the psychological advantage now on the side of the lower seed following the Elasto Painters’ 106-102 win over the Texters in their initial quarterfinal tiff Wednesday night over at the MOA Arena.

Rain or Shine has actually beaten TNT twice in the tourney – the first a 105-73 rout in the elims – and the E-Painters now ride the momentum of a three-game romp as they try to arrange a semis showdown with the defending champs Barangay Ginebra Kings.

The top-seeded Bolts faced the grim prospect of blowing away a twice-to-beat advantage, but came through in the clutch to foil the Elite’s tough challenge.

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“My guys showed a lot of heart tonight. We’re really down at half. We had to find direction for the team as we seemed dead in the water,” said Meralco coach Norman Black on their situation at halftime.

Black said their halftime talk was the big key.

“We tried to stay calm as much as possible as we’re getting beat badly. We made some adjustments especially on defense. We started to play aggressive on Walker. We put Ranidel (de Ocampo) on Walker and big credit goes to Ranidel,” said Black.

The Bolts held the explosive Blackwater import to seven points in the second half and to a single basket in the fourth quarter.

On the offensive end, Amer, Lanete and Dillinger came to their rescue, combining for six triples in a decisive attack that sent Meralco ahead at 95-88.

Amer knocked in 4-of-7 treys and finished with a personal conference-high of 31 points while Lanete and Dillinger contributed 17 and 15, respectively.

Allen Durham, the focus of the Blackwater defense, helped deliver the killer blows at the finish, scoring six points on one good foot.

“A big credit also goes to AD for coming back after suffering an injury,” said Black of their import who limped to their bench after twisting his right ankle in a rebound play with 7:05 to go.

Averaging 27.7 points a game, Walker erupted for 27 right in the first half in this game on 6-of-11 three-pointers, a 7-of-15 overall clip and 7-of-9 free throws.

The scores:

MERALCO 104 – Amer 31, Durham 18, Lanete 17, Dillinger 15, De Ocampo 14, Newsome 7, Hodge 2, Caram 0, Hugnatan 0, Nabong 0, Tolomia 0.

BLACKWATER 96 – Walker 34, Erram 18, Digregorio 11, Maliksi 10, Canaleta 6, Marcelo 6, Belo 5, Sumang 4, Pinto 2.

Quarterscores: 22-22, 40-52, 73-77, 104-96.

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