Meralco levels series with Ginebra


MANILA — The Meralco Bolts outplayed the Barangay Ginebra Kings in the endgame to score a stunning 85-83 Game 4 victory Friday night, leveling the PBA Governors’ Cup finals at 2-2.

The pivotal Game 5 is set Sunday at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

In a frenetic and bizarre ending, Ginebra did not call a timeout to map out a play after Allen Durham scored on an undergoal stab off an assist from Reynel Hugnatan. That basket gave Meralco back the lead, 85-83, with 46.6 seconds left in the game. The Kings had three chances to tie or even regain the lead, but missed all three shots—a 3-point attempt by Sol Mercado and two tries from Justin Brownlee, the last one overshooting the basket as the final buzzer sounded.

Durham was his usual electrifying self, finishing with 28 points, 10 of them in the final quarter, on top of 18 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks in over 44 minutes of action.

Chris Newsome regained his shooting touch, tallying 18 points along with 11 boards, and four assists. Hugnatan reprised his Game 3 heroics with another smashing game, adding 14 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.

Baser Amer also contributed significant numbers in Meralco’s second straight victory over Ginebra. He nailed a crucial three-pointer with 1:16 left that gave the Bolts an 83-81 edge. The sophomore Meralco point guard finished up with 11 points, including two 3-pointers, along with three dimes and two boards.

Brownlee played a monster game for Ginebra, churning out 34 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. However, he failed to get much needed local support with only Joe Devance providing a double-digit score of 15 points, on top of six caroms, four assists, and two steals a losing effort. In another strange twist, LA Tenorio was held scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting.

The Gin Kings were down by 13 points, 50-63, with 3:24 late in the third quarter when they went on a 20-7 rampage surprisingly led by the “fast and furious” duo of Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand, together with Brownlee. As a result, Ginebra was able to knot the count at 70-all on a layup by Helterbrand with 7:48 left in the game.

Brownlee scored on an emphatic slam, then followed it up with an alley-oop assist to Japeth Aguilar who scored on a three-point play, giving Ginebra an 81-78 lead with 1:59 left.

But Durham barreled his way inside for a basket followed by Amer’s 3-pointer as the Bolts regained the lead, 83-81.

Brownlee tied the game for the last time with two free throws before Durham scored what proved to be the winning basket.

Meanwhile, June Mar Fajardo won his fourth straight PBA MVP award during the Leo Awards before the game. Fajardo, 27, thus joined PBA legends Ramon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio as the only four-time winners of the league's highest individual honor.

In a hattrick, Fajardo was also named in the Mythical Five that included San Miguel Beer teammates Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot, and Arwind Santos, together with Ginebra’s Aguilar.

Fajardo was also included in the All-Defensive Team joined by Aguilar, Ross, Star’s Jio Jalalon and Rain or Shine’s Gabe Norwood, who also won the Sportsmanship Award.

Ross was named Most Improved Player of the Year while TNT’s Roger Pogoy copped the Rookie of the Year award, edging Phoenix’s Matthew Wright.