Meralco completed a great rally from the brink of elimination as it carved out a mind-boggling 108-103 overtime win over Phoenix Petroleum Friday night to sneak into the PBA Governors Cup Final Four before a stunned crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
It was a turnaround to die for, with the Bolts coming from a 1-4 win-loss showing in an FIBA tourney in Thailand then starting with six losses against a lone win in this PBA tourney.
Allen Durham and his teammates strung up six straight wins with their back against the wall, and thus the Bolts grabbed the last ticket to the semifinals joining early qualifiers Barangay Ginebra, Magnolia Pambansang Manok and Alaska Milk.
It's Ginebra and Magnolia in their side of the best-of-five semis series beginning Saturday at the Ynares Sports Center. Meralco and Alaska open their own Final Four face-off Sunday at the same Antipolo playing venue.
"Credit to our guys. They're so persistent and stubborn in what they want to achieve," said Meralco coach Norman Black.
"The problem is we're playing Alaska in two days. But I'm sure the guys we'll continue what they're doing now. I'm sure we'll be ready on Sunday," Black added.
Durham showed the stuffs that has made him a two-time Best Import awardee while Baser Amer dished out one of the biggest games in his career to lead the Bolts to the great win over the Fuel Masters.
The Meralco import powered his way to 32 points, 21 rebounds and nine assists while Amer drilled in five three-pointers and fired away 26 points in all.
Chris Newsome, Nico Salva, KG Canaleta and Reynel Hugnatan had their moments as the Bolts overcame a 16-point deficit in the second quarter and survived a precious situation entering the last three minutes of the game.
The Bolts forced overtime on a decisive 10-3 closing binge in regulation and spilled the Fuel Masters as they played tough through the extension play.
Meralco stormed out of the starting block in OT on a clutch shot by Salva and back-to-back treys by Amer.
The Bolts actually even got a shot at winning the game in regulations but Durham failed to convert their possession in the last seven seconds.
From seven down at 84-91, the Bolts unleashed a decisive 10-to-nothing run through Durham, Amer, Newsome and Hugnatan to roll ahead at 94-91 before Jason Perkins ended their long silence with a booming trey with 7.4 ticks to go.
Matthew Wright went 6-of-10 from the field for 14 points while Eugene Phelps snared 13 rebounds and drilled in nine markers as the Fuel Masters imposed themselves with a 16-point lead early on before settling for a 50-40 margin at the half.
But the Bolts slowly chipped away from the Fuel Masters' 46-30 lead and eventually grabbed the upper hand at 68-67 before the third period came to a close. (SB)
Meralco 108 - Durham 32, Amer 26, Newsome 19, Salva 8, Canaleta 7, Hugnatan 6, Faundo 4, Dillinger 2, Caram 2, Tolomia 2.
Phoenix 103 - Perkins 24, Wright 20, Phelps 18, Chua 13, Abueva 10, Intal 10, Wilson 5, Revilla 2, Jazul 1, Kramer 0.
Quarters: 22-27, 40-50, 70-68, 94-94, 108-103.