SMART Clark Giga City. - Meralco won't be denied on this one.
Unleashing one scoring run after another the Bolts walloped the hapless San Miguel Beermen, 90-68, Sunday to arrange a PBA Philippine Cup semifinals duel with a familiar foe at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Gym in Angeles City.
The most telling of Meralco's power surges was a 16-0 blast in the third quarter that set the Bolts up for as much as a 75-48 bulge and well on their way to a more decisive follow-up to their 78-71 win at the start of the quarterfinals duel last Friday.
Thus, Meralco arranged a best-of-five match-up with eliminations topnotcher and early semifinalist Barangay Ginebra, the same team which has beaten coach Norman Black and his charges in three of the last four Governors Cup finals.
Payback would have to take a backseat, at least for the meantime, however, as Black and his squad first savor the sweet rewards of their efforts that negated fourth-ranked SMB's win-once advantage in the duel.
"We knew we were at a disadvantage and we just said we'd take it one quarter at a time. That's all we could do, try and win every quarter and just keep on going no matter what happens," said Cliff Hodge, who shared Meralco scoring honors with Baser Amer, each with 14 points.
For Black, his team realizing a final four appearance for the very first time in the conference formerly known as the All-Filipino should be a testament to the hard work his players put in, especially on making stops on this particular night.
"Tonight was really a focus on defense," said Black. "We knew what we wanted to do defensively. We knew that they were a team that posted up a majority of the time so we tried to devise schemes that would try to slow down their post-up (threat), Mo Tautuaa, and their guards.
"It worked very, very well because the players executed the gameplan. So, all hats off to them. All the credit goes to the players, I'm so happy for them, they worked so hard."
The semis start Wednesday and Black already has his next task figured out. "Now I have to regroup them because the job is not finished. It's only the semifinals," he said.
"Now I'm gonna put our sights on the finals."
That was something SMB had planned on, but luck, partly credited with its run to the last five straight titles in the import-less tourney, was simply not on its side this time.
Injuries to key players and some playing at way below 100 percent due to fatigue and their own aches and pains ultimately told on the Beermen.
SMB did get off one run of its own, spilling the momentum gained from a 13-3 exchange ending the first half as boost for a 6-0 spurt off two triples by Lassiter to close in at 37-43.
That was the closest it got as Hodge scored on four straight points down low to spark the decisive charge that pulled Meralco out from a 53-43 count and into a 69-43 spread.
Tautuaa did get a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds and Lassiter also wound up with 20 but the rest of the Beermen played below par.
Somewhat easing the pain for Arwind Santos, who finished with 10 points, were the two triples he made in the third quarter that put him in a tie with Al Solis on the all-time list with at least a total of 1,000. (NC)
MERALCO 90 - Hodge 14, Amer 14, Hugnatan 12, Maliksi 11, Quinto 9, Newsome 9, Black 9, Almazan 8, Jamito 2, Jackson 2, Caram 0 , Salva 0, Pinto 0, Jose 0.
SAN MIGUEL 68 - Lassiter 20, Tautuaa 13, Santos 10, Ross 7, Cabagnot 6, Zamar 3, Alolino 2, Pessumal 0, Comboy 0, Gamalinda 0, Escoto 0.
Quarters: 21-11; 43-31; 75-50; 90-68.