by Jonas Terrado
Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Meralco vs Phoenix
Meralco, a team that refused to roll over and die for the past few weeks, appears to hold a slight edge over fancied Phoenix today when the two ballclubs dispute the last remaining semifinals berth in a do-or-die PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinals match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Tipoff is set at 7 p.m. with the Bolts hoping to stave off elimination yet again and arrange a best-of-five showdown with the Alaska Aces in the semis that seemed to be an impossible destination after starting the conference at 1-6.
The Bolts forced the rubber match two nights ago, leaning on a dominating second half courtesy of two-time reigning Best Import Allen Durham to post a 90-74 rout of the Fuel Masters at the Cuneta Astrodome.
It was the fifth straight triumph for the Bolts, whose confidence has soared each game. Coach Norman Black, however, is focused on fixing some minor details in anticipation for a big Fuel Masters fightback.
“(Phoenix) fought very hard to get that twice-to-beat advantage,” said Black. “We still have to go out and win one more game to make it to the semifinals.”
His Phoenix counterpart Louie Alas can only hope that the loss would serve as a wake-up call for his players as they aim to avoid spoiling the best conference the franchise ever had since its PBA entry in 2016.
Phoenix, which was seeded second in the playoffs, is eyeing its first-ever semifinal appearance.
An interested spectator will be Alaska, a team that made it to the semis in stunning fashion with a 96-85 romp of San Miguel Beer.
The Aces face the winner of the jugular in the semis that begins Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Meralco looks to get another strong display from Durham, Chris Newsome and Baser Amer to complete the upset.
Jared Dillinger, who played seven minutes in a surprise return, may turn into a gambit for the Bolts as Black has hinted giving the 10-year vet longer playing time with high stakes on the line.
But the Fuel Masters are determined to strike midnight on the Bolts’ Cinderella run behind import Eugene Phelps, Calvin Abueva and Matthew Wright.