Barako Bull fell short of its target but stayed in the race for the last semis berth following a shaky 81-79 win over Meralco at the end of the elimination phase of the PBA Governors’ Cup Sunday at the-SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The Energy to win by at least five points to secure a one-game bye in the playoffs for the last remaining ticket to the next round, and looked headed in that direction after building a 77-60 spread early in the fourth period with over eight minutes remaining.
But the Bolts, behind the outside sniping of import Mario West, managed to close the gap with a 19-3 assault to threaten at 80-79 with 36.9 seconds remaining.
Barako Bull turned the ball in the next play, allowing the Meralco a chance for a win, which would have given the Bolts an outright semis seat.
But West was forced to kick out the ball to Dennis Daa just above the free throw line and the former Letran forward missed the potential game-winner.
LeRoy Hickerson collared the defensive rebound and pegged the final score with a split.
“Sayang, we’re up 17 but we played not to lose. We didn’t play to win and that’s what happened,” said Energy coach Junel Baculi.
“We tend to relax. Now, we have to go through the long route.”
Barako Bull, Powerade, and Meralco finished the elimination phase with identical 4-5 slates. The Bolts drew a bye with its superior higher quotient.
The Energy and the Tigers will face off in the first playoff encounter on Tuesday, with the winner taking on Meralco for the last semis seat on Wednesday.
Hickerson led Barako Bull with 22 points while Danny Seigle and Ronald Tubid netted 16 and 10 respectively.
It was Seigle who gave the Energy their biggest lead at 77-60, before West, who finished with a conference-best 40 points, piloted the uprising.
Baculi said he’s confident his team could go through the two-game wringer.
“I’m confident because we beat both teams (Meralco and Powerade),” he said..