Jared Dillinger and the Meralco Bolts remained composed despite starting the game with one of the worst quarters in league playoff history, snatching Game One of the 2017 Governor’s Cup Semifinals from the Star Hotshots, 72-66, Sunday night at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan, Laguna.
The Bolts are now 1-0 in the best-of-five series. Furthermore, this has been Meralco’s third come-from-behind victory in the last seven days, with the first two coming at San Miguel Beermen and Blackwater Elite’s expense.
“It’s always gonna be a defensive struggle with Star. They really hit us hard in the beginning and took us out of our offense. Luckily for us, our defense held up and kept us in the game,” said Meralco coach Norman Black.
“And eventually, our shots got falling and that got us in the game,” the decorated mentor added.
Allen Durham powered Meralco with 23 points on 56 percent shooting and 23 rebounds. Jared Dillinger and Baser Amer amply provided support with 15 and 10 points, respectively.
The Bolts, who had a sluggish start that saw them trail the Hotshots 3-20, made a furious 11-0 rally late in the game — capped by Dillinger’s lay-up off a drive — to snatch the upper hand, 68-66, with just 1:02 left to play.
The Hotshots tried to send the match into another deadlock, but Mark Barroca’s mid-range jumper hit nothing but air and sailed out of bounds — their fourth straight turnover in the match’s final four-minute stretch.
The Orangemen then took advantage of the regained possession. Durham took matters into his own hands, as he drove hard and hit a fallaway jumper over Star’s tough contest to widen their lead, 70-66, with 33.2 ticks to go.
As time went by, the Hotshots’ chances became slimmer and slimmer. Garvo Lanete’s freebies with 12 ticks on the clock and a missed three-pointer by Star at the other end were enough to seal the semis opener for the Bolts.
Jio Jalalon led Star with 15 points and six boards. Barroca and Paul Lee each supplied 11 markers on a combined 9-of-32 shooting from the floor. Import Kris Acox, who had four fouls, was limited to seven points but had 16 rebounds.
Turnovers were both teams’ issues, but the Hotshots committed more errors, 24-22, with six coming in the game’s last four minutes — the same stretch where they went scoreless after being ahead, 66-60, in the 3:43 mark.
Game Two will be on Tuesday, October 3, 7:00 PM at the Sta. Rosa Sports Complex in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
Meralco 72 – Durham 23, Dillinger 15, Amer 10, Newsome 7, De Ocampo 5, Hodge 5, Lanete 4, Hugnatan 3, Tolomia 0, Caram 0, Nabong 0.
Star 66 – Jalalon 15, Lee 11, Barroca 11, Sangalang 9, Acox 7, Simon 6, Pingris 4, Brondial 2, Reavis 1, Melton 0, Ramos 0, Dela Rosa 0.
Quarterscores: 7-21, 32-36, 47-53, 72-66.
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