MERALCO held off Alaska 94-84 last night to make short work of the Aces and be the first semifinalist in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Allen Durham had 28 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists while Allein Maliksi laced his 23-point game with some timely baskets in helping the second-ranked Bolts put to good use their win-once advantage over the seventh-seeded Aces.
Chris Newsome added 17 points and some clutch points of his own for Meralco, which now awaits the winner of the other quarterfinals match pitting TNT and defending champion Magnolia.
“Really good team effort… especially on the defensive end of the court,” said winning coach Norman Black, whose team realized a fourth straight semis appearance in the season-ending tournament where it finished runner-up to Ginebra in 2016 and 2017.
Jayvee Casio came off the bench to score a team-high 20 points for Alaska. Simon Enciso caught fire in the second half to finish with 16 points, but Frank House wound up with only 11 points and nine rebounds, his performance hampered by early foul trouble.
Aces gunner Vic Manuel was also held to just nine points, below his 13.6 average in the conference.
Determined to finish off Alaska, Meralco came out with guns blazing and built a 49-34 spread at the turn.
The Aces were hoping to force a deciding match on Tuesday and seemed poise to do it after trimming what once stood as a 22-point deficit to just three in the third quarter.
They were still within 75-80 when Newsome strung up three straight charities and Raymond Almazan scored on a dunk that gave the Bolts more separation 84-77.
Durham and Maliksi then applied the finishing touches, including a putback by the latter that made it an unassailable 92-81 count, only 61 ticks left.
The semis start after the league gives way to the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 SEA Games the country is hosting. – Noli Cortez