Out of playoff contention, the Meralco Bolts were content to play the spoiler role on Friday, defeating the B-MEG Llamados 104-101 in Governors’ Cup semifinals action at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
Sol Mercado, Mario West, and Chris Ross outsprinted the Llamados right from the opening tip off as the Bolts dominated most of the game before weathering a late uprising by B-MEG.
Mercado finished with a game-high 30 points, five assists, and three steals while West contributed 29 points, including several highlight reel dunks.
Ross added 18 points, five assists and three steals, and completed a three-point play off a foul from Josh Urbiztondo in the last 6.7 seconds that gave the Bolts a 102-98 lead.
But B-MEG, which tried to pull off a come-from-behind win for the third straight game in the semis, refused to fold up easily as James Yap buried a three-pointer off the glass to shove the Llamados within one point, 102-101, with 3.9 seconds left in the match.
In the next play, the Llamados fouled Asi Taulava, who split his charities for a 103-101 lead.
Left without a timeout, Tim Cone used an excessive timeout resulting in a technical foul charged on the team and a free throw for Mac Cardona, which gave him an opportunity to map up a play. But Ross stole the ball off an intended inbound pass to Urbiztondo as Meralco escaped with the win.
“Sometimes character is really tested when nothing is on the line. But this team plays hard, plays to win, and this team showed it can go up against the big dogs in the league,” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio. “We’ve been outplayed the past three games because we’ve never been in this situation and we don’t know how to play in this kind of environment. But finally, we won a big one against B-MEG.”
It was the first loss in the semis for B-Meg, which fell into a tie for second and third places with idle Ginebra. Both teams carry 8-4 win-loss cards heading into their much-awaited Manila Clasico encounter on Sunday.
B-MEG’s loss means that Rain or Shine, which continues to stay on top, has clinched at least a playoff for a finals berth. The Elasto Painters tote a 9-3 record, putting the franchise in solid position to secure its first championship appearance in franchise history.
Meralco (104) – Mercado 30, West 29, Ross 18, Cardona 11, Taulava 9, Macapagal 3, Timberlake 2, Reyes 2.
B-MEG (101) – Blakely 30, Yap 22, Simon 13, Barroca 11, De Ocampo 11, Urbiztondo 6, Pingris 5, Villanueva 3, Reavis 0.
Quarters: 31-17, 54-43, 77-63, 104-101
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