After four straight conferences, the reign of the Purefoods franchise ends. Unluckily, this happened in the first phase of this conference’s playoffs at the hands of the Meralco Bolts, who beat the Star Hotshots 77-65. In past conferences, Purefoods managed to get back despite slow starts but this season, they were unfortunate to face the Bolts who held a twice-to-beat advantage which officially ended their dream run towards a possible fifth straight crown.
“It’s just a big win for us to beat the defending champions,” said Bolts head coach Norman Black, who also has one Grand Slam under his belt.
“It [was] a complete team effort today,” commented Black on how his team collectively helped each other to move on to the next phase of the quarterfinals.
James Sena led the bench players with 11 markers. Of the 77 total points of Meralco, 30 came off the bench. Reynel Hugnatan also added seven points, all coming in the second half. Gary David, Anjo Caram, and Ryan Buenafe each had four points and provided timely baskets to lift their squad.
Double-digits for four
Joining Sena in the double-digit column were Jared Dillinger, Cliff Hodge, and Mike Cortez. Dillinger scattered his 14 points all throughout the game. Hodge, meanwhile, surged early in the first period to score eight of his 12 total points while Cortez had 11 of his own.
On the other hand, Joe Devance carried most of the load for the Hotshots as he fired 21 points in the game.
Prior to the payoff period, Purefoods was still in the game, taking a three-point lead in the early goings of the match. However, three points was the biggest advantage they could hold against the Bolts.
Meralco’s largest lead was just eight before the final canto, but they surged ahead to take the game from the Hotshots when they took a 17-point lead. From then on, Purefoods tried to claw back but Meralco just proved to be the better team.
“We played with a lot of heart today but nothing personal against Tim,” said Black, whose Talk ‘N Text team last season was eliminated by Purefoods head coach Tim Cone.
With the victory, the Bolts will be facing the Alaska Aces on Sunday for a chance to advance to the semifinals in a do-or-die match. Remembering the 41-point blowout they received from Alaska earlier this season, Black had only one thing in mind, “Hopefully we’re a better team now.”