ANTIPOLO -- Meralco found its touch from long range in the fourth quarter after struggling in the first three to pull away from Blackwater 106-97 in the PBA Governors' Cup on Friday at the Ynares Center. Four players, led by Allen Durham and his 27 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists, scored in double figures for the Bolts, who improved to 4-2.
Raymond Almazan added 19 markers and 10 boards, while Baser Amer and Nino Canaleta added 17 and 13 each.
Blackwater stayed within striking distance in the payoff period despite falling behind by 10 in the third to bother the Bolts -- who made only 2-for-10 threes in before the final frame -- and even came within four, 85-81, after a Marqus Blakely basket inched them closer at the 7:40 mark.
Amer and Bong Quinto came through and built on baskets from Almazan and Durham by nailing three straight 3s to extend the gap to 99-88 with 4:09 left, then Amer another triple with 1:07 remaining to give the Bolts a 14-point lead that would keep them safe until the buzzer.
Meralco went 5-for-9 on threes in the final 12 minutes. "The three-point shot is very much part of the game of basketball now, and if you go up against teams that shoot and make a lot of threes, it's hard to keep matching that with twos," coach Norman Black said of their approach. "I never discouraged the guys to take the shot if they're open. If those are good shots, they should just fire it out there. Fortunately for us, some of those went down in the fourth quarter."
Despite their early struggles with the triple, Meralco stayed ahead for the majority of the game thanks to their work inside the arc, where they managed a sterling 56 percent (33-for-58).
"Our import is more of an inside player so we won't go away from our strength, we won't go away from our character. We'll look to attack inside with AD, which is what we did tonight. We got a lot of high-low plays and low-post attacks with AD in the paint. So that's really gonna be the strength of our team," Black said.
Meralco's shooting 35.6 percent on threes (fifth in the league), but Black admitted he still wants to see an uptick in that mark.
"We really want to improve our three-point shooting because if you noticed, all the top teams in the league shoot threes very, very well and if you want to match up with them, you have to be able to make three-point shots," he said. "[S]ome teams are shooting 40, 42, 43. We still have to continue to work on it. But it's not something that we're just gonna totally rely on. Like I said, some of the teams playing as imports are wingmen who shoot the three very, very well."
The Bolts grabbed solo fourth in the standings in the win and are looking to stay there to lock down a twice-to-beat advantage after the eliminations.
"We know it's been very difficult because NLEX has been winning, and of course you have San Miguel and Ginebra and TNT still there. But we just want to win the games we think we can go out and win. We know that the road gets tougher because we play San Miguel the next game," said Black.
Blackwater, which slid to 2-4, was led by Mike DiGregorio's 22 points. Blakely flirted with a triple-double of his own with 15 points, 17 boards, seven assists and four steals, while Allein Maliksi and Ray Parks added 12 apiece.
Meralco 106 - Durham 27, Almazan 19, Amer 17, Canaleta 13, Newsome 8, Quinto 8, Pinto 7, Faundo 3, Caram 2, Hugnatan 2.
Blackwater 97 - Digregorio 22, Blakely 15, Parks 12, Maliksi 12, Al-Hussaini 11, Belo 10, Cortez 4, Cruz 3, Desiderio 2, Sena 2, Sumang 2, Alolino 2.
Quarters: 22-20, 56-50, 80-74, 106-97.
This is Blackwater's first loss at the Ynares Center in three games this conference.
In line with Black's philosophy of attacking inside, the Bolts outscored the Elite 60-36 in the paint.
Blackwater vs. Rain or Shine on Oct. 23 at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Meralco vs. San Miguel on Oct. 27 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.