7th-seeded Meralco upsets 2nd-seeded Phoenix, Bolts march onto semis vs Aces

MANILA, Philippines - Playoffs experience was the key for Meralco Bolts as they sent the 2nd-seeded and young Phoenix Fuel Masters home, 108-103 on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

7th-seeded Meralco upsets 2nd-seeded Phoenix, Bolts march onto semis vs Aces
Small but terrible. Baser “The Hammer” Amer, exploded at the overtime period to help Meralco claim the last semis spot | Photo Credit: pba.ph

All eyes were on Phoenix Fuel Masters and Meralco Bolts as they were the only teams who went into a sudden death in this conference playoffs.

Weighing things out, the odds were on the Bolts’ side as they have both the playoffs and player experience compare to the young core of the Fuel Masters.

But if the pundits are to be asked, for them, both teams have the 50/50 chance to win the series as the squads both have their prolific imports as well as solid supporting casts.

PBA fans are not used to seeing Phoenix play in quarters and it will be unbelievable for them to watch this young team contend in the semis if they could push through.

One of the successes that the Fuel Masters have is perhaps their acquisition of Calvin Abueva early in this conference. “The Beast” really provided hustle and firepower for his new team and above all, his play style complimented Eugene Phelp’s game.

Aside from Abueva and Phelps, Matthew Wright has also been the barometer and center of the Phoenix franchise. Wright’s 8 points in the opener, helped his team possessed a 27-22 lead over Meralco.

The Bolts played without their 2 superstars: Ranidel de Ocampo and Cliff Hodge who were both out due to injuries. Despite the absence of the key players, the series remained fair and square as Phoenix’s Eugene Phelps played with strained left ribs that limited him on floor.

With his import in pain, Matthew Wright took the scoring chores and placed Phoenix on top of Meralco with a 14-point advantage mid of the second.

Chris Newsome and Allen Durham joined forces to bring the lead down to 10 points, 50-40 from as high as 18 after the half.

Not only was Wright who was draining some buckets for Phoenix. Come 3rd quarter, JC Intal and Jason Perkins had their fair share too and retained Fuel Masters’ double-digit margin.

2-Time Best Import Allen Durham felt the sense of urgency late in the 3rd period and all of a sudden, Bolts’ reinforcement erupted and brought the lead down to 4.

At the end of the penultimate quarter, Meralco Bolts found themselves ahead of Phoenix Fuel Masters, 70-68 with Baser Amer’s buzzer beater.

The final quarter of the game was too intense and became a seesaw battle for both squads who were both trying to survive and take the final semis spot.

Midway of the fourth, Phoenix regained control of its lead and made a living from the early penalty situation of Meralco.

Down to the last minute, the spectators gone crazy after seeing players dove and scrambled on the hardwood just to keep the ball alive. This time, Meralco held a very slim half-shot advantage but managed to add 2 more via Reynel Hugnatan’s foul shots.

Rookie Jason Perkins could’ve played his best game in his young career tonight. The former DLSU Archer sank a long trey to tie the game at 94-all and sent the game into overtime.

It looked like that Phoenix ran out of fuel in the extra period as Meralco, led by Baser Amer made an 8-0 scoring blitz and dimmed Coach Louie Alas’ hopes to advance in the semi-finals.

Matthew Wright and Calvin Abueva made some good plays and a short decent run but still fell short in the hands of Allen Durham and Baser Amer who dropped 32 and 26 points respectively.

The Meralco Bolts, after the 108-103 victory will face the feisty Alaska Aces on Sunday, November 11, 2018 for their own best-of-five semis series.

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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