PBA Finals: Meralco avoids sweep, takes Game 3 against Ginebra

MANILA, Philippines - Meralco Bolts dodged a fatal bullet and avoided a sweep as they posted their first PBA Finals series win against Ginebra, 94-81 on Wednesday, October 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

PBA Finals: Meralco avoids sweep against Ginebra, takes Game 3
Allen Durham posted monster numbers with 38 points, 20 rebounds and 5 blocks for the game 3 win. Photo Credit: Philstar.com
In the entire history of PBA, there’s only 1 team that overcame a 0-3 deficit and won the title. That’s none other than San Miguel Beermen. But all the other teams prior to SMB’s “Beeracle” feat hit the rock bottom. Downed by 0-2 in the series, Meralco can’t afford to lose another game tonight but Ginebra will try to record one more win to make another step closer to its targeted back-to-back championships.

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After 2 games, Ranidel De Ocampo started at the 4-position to contain the very versatile wingman Japeth Aguilar who plays center for Barangay Ginebra in the series while the Best Player of the Conference, Greg Slaughter comes off the bench for Coach Tim Cone.

Fielding in RDO to put weight and body in the middle didn’t give Coach Norman Black the result that he wanted. Rather, Ginebra garnered majority of its points underneath the basket for the early headstart.

The 6’9” Aguilar really owned the opening quarter and just gave Slaughter a short 3-minute appearance to have a breather after dropping 9 points.

In the latter part of the opener, Meralco caught up with Ginebra through the gallant efforts of its secondary unit and Best Import Allen Durham. After the first 12 minutes, game was tied at 21-all.

As if Japeth Aguilar was not enough for Ginebra against the undersized big men of Meralco. Adding Greg Slaughter in the front court could mean overkill. Surprisingly, it was the other way around, the Bolts even took the lead in the early phase of the second. Ginebra however regained the lead. But at least Meralco was able to keep it close.

Prior to this series, Meralco sanctioned Kelly Nabong with indefinite suspension due to conduct detrimental to the team that gave them the height disadvantage over Ginebra. Worse came to worst, Ranidel De Ocampo sustained an undisclosed injury in the first period that left the center spot open for Reynel Hugnatan and Brian Faundo.

Despite missing couple of big men and enduring the presence of Aguilar-Slaughter combo, the Bolts still managed to keep the game tight after the first half. 47-46 in favor of Barangay Ginebra. Allen Durham led all scorers with 15 while the “Twin Towers” had 9 apiece.

Barangay stiffened its defense that paved way for good transition offense and forced Coach Norman Black to burn a quick timeout couple of minutes after the 3rd quarter started.

During game 2, Ginebra got away with the lead when PBA legend, Robert Jaworski showed up in the venue. Coincidentally, the Big J appeared on the 3rd period of this game and Barangay all of a sudden pumped-up its score. Could Meralco be in deep and serious trouble with this?

Ginebra could’ve dominated the penultimate quarter but it hit the foul limit too early that gave an opportunity to Meralco to get closer until it gave the lead to the Bolts 66-64 entering to the final canto.

Ginebra surprised Meralco at the start of the fourth with a back-to-back treys from Joe Devance and Justin Brownlee. And just like that, the momentum abruptly shifted back to Barangay.

Allen Durham single-handedly took over the scoring chores for Meralco Bolts and successfully levelled the score 77-all under 5 minutes of the ball game while his counterpart took a short rest from the sidelines.

Together with Durham, back-up center Reynel Hugnatan erupted from the rainbow territory for the lead. Meralco savored a 6-point, 83-77 lead with 3:31 left in the game clock.

With 90 ticks remaining, Meralco posted a double-digit advantage courtesy of “magic bunot” Reynel Hugnatan and Allen Durham. Durham not only showed finesse offensively but displayed a handful of defensive stops as well against Greg Slaughter and Justin Brownlee.

With a 94-81 lead, the Bolts held on the ball until the final buzzer sounded. The Best Import, Allen Durham posted monster numbers with 38 points, 20 rebounds and 5 blocks.

Game 4 will be on Friday, October 20 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

-- Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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