Meralco ousted top seed Talk ’N Text, 94-88, in Game 4 to claim the first finals slot in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Cliff Hodge nailed a career-high 32 points on top of four rebounds and an assist to help Meralco cruised to its first finals appearance since joining the league in 2010.
Allen Durham provided the needed back up with 19 points, 16 boards, three assists, an assist and a block while Reynel Hugnatan chipped in 16 markers. Rookie of the Year candidate Chris Newsome added 15.
“Credit goes to the team, to the player for working so hard in practice. We just focused on trying to be a team,” said Meralco head coach Norman Black.
Meralco posted a 10-point led on Hodge’s turnaround jumper, 86-76, with 1:35 left in the final period. Tropang Texters, however, refused to give up, nailing crucial shots down the stretch including a three-pointer from Ranidel De Ocampo to cut the lead to just three, 85-88.
But Hodge was on fire as he buried a booming triple to tow the Bolts to a comfortable 91-85 lead.
Since then, Meralco never looked back.
Jayson Castro led Talk ‘N Text with 25 points but got ejected late in the fourth quarter for incurring two flagrant fouls. De Ocampo finished with 15 points, and Mychal Ammons and Troy Rosario delivered 10 markers each for the Tropang Texters.
The Bolts wrapped up the best-of-five semifinals series with a 3-1 card.
The Tropang Texters triumphed in Game 1 (113-95) before the Bolts retaliated with a 106-91 victory in Game 2 and 119-113 win in Game 3.
It was a sorry loss for TNT, which ended the elimination round on top with 10-1 win-loss record only to be booted out by the No. 4 seed Meralco.
Meralco will be facing the winner between defending champion San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra, which will be disputing the last finals berth in a rubber match scheduled at 7 p.m. today at the same venue.
The Beermen forced a do-or-die match after routing the Gin Kings, 101-72, in Game 4 of their own best-of-five semifinal showdown.
In that win, San Miguel drew solid games from five players including Marcio Lassiter, who sizzled with 25 points, and reigning Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, who had a double-double showing of 17 points and 16 boards.
Alex Cabagnot, Elijah Millsap and Arwind Santos contributed 13 each.
“They [San Miguel players] know the situation, we’ve been in this situation in the past. We just evened the series,” said San Miguel head coach Leo Austria.
But expect Ginebra to go all-out this time as it aims to secure its 22nd finals appearance.
“Such a beautiful crowd last game, yet we fell flat on our faces. We’re so sorry to let the fans down. They were great even if we were not. But we will pick ourselves up and fight for the fans in Game 5. We will make you proud,” said Ginebra head coach Tim Cone.
Import Justin Brownlee must step up anew along with Japeth Aguilar, LA Tenorio, Joe Devance and Mark Caguioa.
After scoring 22 points including the game-winning jumper in Game 3, Aguilar was limited to just a single point on a poor 0-of-6 field goal shooting in 21 minutes of action.
“We’re not only looking for a Finals berth in Game 5 but we’re also looking for redemption after getting hammered in Game 4. We know we’re a better team than we showed to the fans [in Game 4]. We’ll be ready,” added Cone, a two-time PBA Grand Slam champion coach.
The Gins Kings won in Game 1 (113-95) and Game 3 (97-96) while the Beermen took the Game 2 (95-92) before tying the series with a Game 4 win last Sunday.
Game today (Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. San Miguel Beer vs Barangay Ginebra