The Meralco Bolts upended the Phoenix Fuel Masters 108-103 in overtime Friday to advance to the PBA Governors' Cup semifinals.
The Bolts are just the 13th team in PBA history to overcome a twice-to-win disadvantage.
Down by as many as 16 points, the Bolts rallied behind the 3-point shooting of Baser Amer and the rebounding and free throw shooting of Allen Durham in overtime.
Amer nailed back-to-back triples following a Nico Salva jumper for an 8-0 start and a 102-94 lead. However, Calvin Abueva almost single-handedly brought Phoenix back, cutting the deficit to just two points, 102-100, with 92 seconds left.
In the end, a jumper Reynel Hugnatan and four free throws from Durham turned out to be enough to pick up the win.
Amer and Durham were named as the Best Players of the Game.
"We were just patient with it. We started at 1-6 but now we're heading into the semifinals," said Amer, who had 26 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the 3-point range. "Coach Norman [Black] just told me that if I'm open, I should take it. They left me open twice so I shot it."
Durham just missed another triple-double and finished with 32 points, 21 rebounds, and nine assists, shooting 10 of 17 from the field.
"It just came to a point where everybody looked at themselves in the mirror and made a decision to play better defense," Durham said. "That was a crazy game. Phoenix is a great team but we really wanted it. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We'll enjoy this win and then we'll prepare for Alaska."
Meralco also got some help from Chris Newsome who scored 19 points while adding six rebounds and four assists.
After not getting much from his point guards LA Revilla and RJ Jazul in the first game as they combined for 1-of-19 shooting from the field, Alas decided to start the game with no natural point guard as he had Matthew Wright, JC Intal, Calvin Abueva, and Jason Perkins joining their import. The Bolts had some initial success against this unit but ultimately their length on defense started becoming a factor as they led 27-22 after the opening period.
The Fuel Masters heated up even more midway through of the second period as they went on a 12-0 run capped by a basket from Perkins to build their biggest lead at 16 points, 46-30.
However, Meralco went on a huge run in the third quarter led by Baser Amer who dropped 11 markers in the period. The Bolts finally regained control in the final minute after a Nino Canaleta triple that gave them a 68-67 lead.
Meralco outscored Phoenix 30-18 in the third.
From the ashes of the poor third quarter performance, Phoenix rose in the payoff period. Crucial triples from William Wilson and Perkins gave them an 85-79 advantage halfway into the fourth.
The Fuel Masters were up by seven points, 91-84, with three minutes left in the game when Meralco rallied one last time. With Durham dominating the rebounding department, his young guards Amer and Newsome clawed the Bolts back into the contest and when they needed some help, their import showed up to score on a tough layup against Phelps to get them the lead, 92-91, with only 67 seconds left.
Late in the contest with Meralco holding a slim one-point lead Amer was blocked by Abueva but Durham also denied a shot from Perkins on the other side, allowing Reynel Hugnatan to grab the rebound and draw a foul.
The veteran made both freebies but Perkins tied the score at 94-all with a cold-blooded triple with 7.4 seconds. Durham missed a shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
All of the Fuel Masters who started in the game managed to score in double digits led by the impressive Perkins who had 24 points. Wright added 20 while Phelps chipped in 18 points, 23 rebounds, and seven assists. Intal and Abueva chipped in 10 points apiece but The Beast struggled from the field as he only made four of 18 tries.
The Bolts now face the Alaska Aces in the best-of-five semifinals. Game 1 is on Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Meralco 108 - Durham 32, Amer 26, Newsome 19, Salva 8, Canaleta 7, Hugnatan 6, Faundo 4, Dillinger 2, Caram 2, Tolomia 2.
Phoenix 103 - Perkins 24, Wright 20, Phelps 18, Chua 13, Abueva 10, Intal 10, Wilson 5, Revilla 2, Jazul 1, Kramer 0.
Quarters: 22-27, 40-50, 70-68, 94-94, 108-103.
- Phelps pulled a muscle on the left side of his midsection early in the game and it bothered him throughout the contest. He hurt it again early in the fourth period after he was fouled on an and-one play.
- Cliff Hodge did not see action for Meralco after hurting his back in their first game. Ranidel De Ocampo continued to be out of commission as he suffered another injury in practice.
- Meralco is now 6-0 in elimination games this conference.