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Durham sparks Bolts to win over Hotshots

Star Hotshots’ Ian Sangalang plants a knee on Mike Tolomia of Meralco Bolts as he takes an undergoal  shot in the first game of their semifinal series yesterday at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan, Laguna. Behind him is Ranidel de Ocampo of Meralco.     PBA IMAGE
 

MANILA, Philippines — Meralco, inspired by a courageous stand by injured import Allen Durham, waged an amazing fightback from 11 points down in the last five minutes of the game and stunned Star, 72-66, in the opener of their PBA Governors Cup best-of-five semifinal series at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan, Laguna last night.

Durham endured his sprained ankle suffered in their last game and proved to be the catalyst in their dramatic come-from-behind triumph with a huge double-double game with 23 points and the same number of rebounds in 40:27 minutes of action.

Meralco was still in a precarious spot when Durham flexed his muscles the hardest, and his intensity and energy obviously rubbed off on his teammates as the Bolts salvaged the game and gained the decisive head start in the race-to-three-games series.

Defending champion Barangay Ginebra and TNT KaTropa start their side of the Final Four showdown today over at the Smart Araneta Coliseum – a playoff matchup between size versus speed.

Coach Nash Racela is trying to figure out  how they can neutralize Ginebra big men Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar and Joe Devance while coach Tim Cone is concerned how to match up with the quickness and firepower of TNT’s guards and wing threats.

“It could be a classic series,” said Cone ahead of the series that fires off at 7 tonight at the Big Dome.

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Off to an exciting, dramatic start is the Meralco-Star series that resumes with Game Two over at the Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex in Sta. Rosa, Laguna tomorrow.

Intensity was on a high as Meralco was at the height of its rally when assistant coach Jimmy Alapag and Bolts reserve center Kelly Nabong figured in a verbal tussle during a timeout, prompting the player to rip off his jersey. He didn’t join huddles during timeouts the rest of the way.

The Bolts actually battled back all the way from 17 points down in the opening quarter – the searing rally fuelled by gunners Jared Dillinger and Ranidel de Ocampo in the homestretch.

Three successive treys by Dillinger and De Ocampo tied the count at 66  then a left-handed layup by Dillinger off Rafi Reavis pushed Meralco ahead to stay at 68-66.

After blowing away their early 20-3 bulge, the Hotshots reestablished a commanding spread at 59-47 on a 12-to-nothing roll in a stretch bridging the third and the fourth quarters.

Then Durham took charge before De Ocampo and Dillinger lent their hands to help Meralco through in the tough, low-scoring battle.

Though playing with a limp, Durham came through with 9-of-16 field shooting that went with 5-of-7 free throws, completely outclassing Kris Acox who had  only seven markers and 16 boards.

Dillinger contributed 15 points, including three triples, while De Ocampo came up with two clutch shots when Chris Newsome had fouled out.

The whole Meralco team beat out Star in a defensive battle in the crunch, with the Bolts holding the Hotshots scoreless in the last three minutes and 41 seconds of the game.

The Hotshots were still in the fight at 66-68 when Durham forced Paul Lee to a crucial turnover with 52.9 seconds left.

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