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September 25, 2017

With Blackwater in the way, Meralco sees a bumpy ride to semis

MERALCO has realized one objective.

It's now time for the Bolts to reach for another when they try to make short work of the Blackwater Elite Tuesday at the start of the PBA Governors Cup quarterfinals at the Mall of Asia Arena.

By virtue of finishing the 11-game playoffs with a league-best 9-2 slate Meralco got rewarded with a twice-to-beat advantage which it will try to put to good use against eighth-ranked Blackwater in the match ushering in the last eight.

The Bolts come into the match with a four-game win-streak capped by a 104-101 victory over San Miguel Beer at the end of the eliminations just last Sunday and also prevailed over the Elite 107-78 in their lone elims meeting.

Meralco coach Norman Black knows it won't be easy this time around. "Now we're going to the playoffs, where things are going to get more difficult," he said.

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"The focus now is just to prepare for Blackwater because you know they've played very well in this conference and they have one of the best imports in the conference so we have to be really ready for them in our next game,"

Indeed, the Elite have raised a lot of eyebrows by making it past the eliminations for only the second time since joining the league three years ago.

Black has ample reason to be concerned with Henry Walker, who has lifted Blackwater from a 0-3 start and into a 5-3 record since coming in as replacement for original import Trevis Simpson.

With Mac Belo steadily regaining his old fiery form, JP Erram blossoming into one of the best centers in the league and support provided by the likes of Allein Maliksi, Mike Digregorio and Roi Sumang, the Elite have good reason to be optimistic.

Meralco, however, has played extremely well in realizing its first-ever eliminations honors with reigning Best Import Allen Durham leading the way and the likes of Baser Amer, Jared Dillinger, Cliff Hodge and Chris Newsome chiefly backing him up.

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Like his coach, Durham knows things are going to get a lot tougher. "We got to get back to work tomorrow," he said after the SMB match where he finished with 35 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.

"It's not going to be easy," added Durham. "There's going to be games like this in the playoffs and we just got to keep playing defense, one possession at a time and keep trucking, keep going."