• Bolts, Hotshots eye quick entry into semis

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    Armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, No. 1 Meralco and No. 4 Star shoot for semifinals spots when they take on separate foes today in the quarterfinals of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 42 Governors’ Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

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    The Bolts, who closed out the elimination round at the top of the standings with 9-2 win-loss record, battle No. 8 Blackwater in the first game at 4:15 p.m. while the Hotshots face No. 5 Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) in the main tiff at 7 p.m.

    Coach Norman Black’s wards are coming from a come-from-behind 104-101 win over San Miguel Beer last Sunday to clinch the top seed.

    Allen Durham of Meralco PHOTO BY RUSSEL PALMA

    But Black is not taking the Elite lightly.

    “It is the game that we have to defend the three-point line very well. Henry Walker takes a lot of threes, Mike Digregorio also takes a lot of threes, even Roi Sumang takes a lot of threes, so our perimeter defense will be the key to this game,” said Black.

    Reigning best import Allen Durham, who is averaging 27.8 points, 19.0 rebounds and seven assists in the elimination round, carried the Bolts to victory against the Beermen after scoring 14 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter along with 13 rebounds and eight assists.

    Blackwater, at No. 8 with a 5-6 win-loss record, is banking on Walker and new recruit Maliksi while the bench also needs to step up to force a deciding game.

    Walker is averaging 27.5 points, 16.7 rebounds and five assists in the elimination while Maliksi is posting 25.5 points average in two games for the Elite.

    “We will go all-out for a win tomorrow against Meralco,” said Elite coach Leo Isaac.

    Star, meanwhile, aims to repeat over NLEX to reach the semifinals and face the winner of the Meralco-Blackwater tussle.

    The Hotshots, who also finished with 7-4, got the free entry in the top four following the Bolts’ win over the Beermen.

    “We have to level up our mindset, plays and preparation. I need to make sure my players are motivated enough and ready for the battle starting tomorrow,” said Star coach Chito Victolero, whose team is coming from a 101-93 win over the Road Warriors last Sunday.

    NLEX also ended up with a 7-4 slate but had to settle for fifth spot due to inferior quotient.

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