Meralco, which got the job done in ending the eliminations on a winning note, is now setting its sights on one game that could determine its chances of snatching a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals of the PBA Governors’ Cup.
“We still have to wait and see what happens with San Miguel [Beer] and NLEX. NLEX controls its own fate,” Bolts coach Norman Black said after Meralco’s 92-86 victory over Phoenix on Sunday at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
In finishing classification at 7-4, the Bolts stayed alive for the quarterfinal bonus and also put pressure on other teams that are also in hot pursuit of top four slots going into the next phase of the season-ending conference.
The game Black mentioned is set on March 15 at the same venue. NLEX is closely behind Meralco at fourth spot with a 7-3 slate, and a win over the second-running San Miguel, which is at 7-2, will shut the door on the Bolts.
Also with the inside track is Barangay Ginebra, which went into its game against Converge in the nightcap with a 6-2 card, while an outsider is Magnolia with a 6-4 slate after its stunning 121-115 overtime comeback over lowly Terrafirma the other night.
Even with the complexities of the chase for the twice-to-beat, Black and the Bolts came into the contest with the goal of just getting the win and worrying about the unknown later.
Chance is there
“Our focus for this game was to not let this opportunity go by,” he said. “We knew that if we lost this game, we’d probably end up playing either TNT or San Miguel.
“We wanted to get this win tonight to give ourselves a chance—one, for one of the top four [slots] and two, to avoid the top teams going into the next round. We were able to accomplish that,” Black added.
Things are far easier to understand for Phoenix, even after falling short against Meralco and finishing with a 4-7 slate.
A win would have allowed the Fuel Masters to clinch the eighth spot and complete the quarterfinal cast. Instead, coach Jamike Jarin and his young squad will also have to wait for the eliminations to conclude.
The result kept NorthPort, carrying a 3-7 record, in contention to sneak in for a quarterfinal seat. But the Batang Pier face a tough obstacle on March 15 when they face the pace-setting TNT Tropang Giga.
NorthPort will force a playoff with Phoenix for the No. 8 seed if it can produce an upset victory over TNT.
Phoenix kept things tight in the first half behind the duo of import Du’Vaughn Maxwell and rookie Encho Serrano. But Meralco turned things around in the third with import KJ McDaniels, Chris Banchero and Aaron Black leading the separation from the Fuel Masters.
McDaniels finished with 19 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, four steals and five blocks for the Bolts. INQ
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