The Meralco Bolts punched a return ticket to the Oppo PBA Governors’ Cup finals after completing a three-game semifinal sweep of the Star Hotshots on Thursday night at SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts secured their second finals appearance in franchise history following a hard-earned 91-88 overtime win over the Hotshots.
With the finals return, Meralco is hoping to avenge the heartbreaking Governors’ Cup finals it suffered against Barangay Ginebra last year. The Gin Kings denied the Bolts the championship after Justin Brownlee sank a buzzer-beating three-pointer in the title-clinching Game Six.
Reigning Best Import contender Allen Durham tallied 24 points, 19 rebounds and six assists to lead the Bolts in the Game Three victory over the Hotshots who put up a fight despite missing injured guard Paul Lee.
In a tightly contested overtime period, veterans Jared Dillinger and Ranidel De Ocampo delivered the most important baskets.
Dillinger sank a triple to put the Bolts ahead, 86-83, in a nip-and-tuck extra time that saw both teams bleed for every basket.
De Ocampo fired a jumper from the top of the key with 1:21 left to give Meralco an important five-point advantage as Star remained scoreless at that point.
Afte Rafi Reavis ended the dry spell, Cliff Hodge and Mark Barroca exchanged triples. The score stood at 91-88 for Meralco, but Star had a chance to force another overtime with a three-point basket after a jumpball went in their favor with seven seconds left.
But Jio Jalalon missed a desperation heave at the buzzer, ending Star’s season.
Barroca led Star’s gallant effort with 21 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. He spearheaded the Hotshots’ comeback from 13 points down.
Marc Pingris also stepped up with 16 points and six boards to help the Hotshots who even led by four points in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter before Meralco countered with huge baskets.