Allen Durham finally got the local support that he needed as the Meralco Bolts thwarted the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 98-91, on Wednesday night to level the PBA Governors Cup Finals to 3-3, forcing a deciding Game 7 on Friday night.
Durham once again led Meralco with 28 points, 19 rebounds, and three assists. But unlike in Game 5, the back-to-back Best Import awardee drew strong local support, led by the 38-year-old Reynel Hugnatan who torched Ginebra with 24 points, including six three-pointers, on top of seven rebounds and four steals off the bench.
Meralco coach Norman Black sprang a surprise, inserting new recruit Garvo Lanete in the starting lineup in lieu of Baser Amer. The gamble paid off handsomely with Lanete finishing with 15 points, including three triples, along with five boards, two assists, three steals and a block.
Chris Newsome also starred for the Bolts, tallying 10 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, and a steal.
The Bolts led from start to finish, leading by as many as 20 points in the first half, pushing the Gin Kings back each time they mounted a rally in a game watched by a record-breaking crowd of 53,642 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Despite Ginebra’s height advantage, the Bolts outrebounded the Gin Kings, 51-41. Meralco also had more assists, 24-16, and nailed more three-pointers, 45 percent (12 of 28) to Ginebra’s 37 percent clip (10 of 27). The Bolts also won despite having a lower shooting percentage, 44 percent (39 of 87) to the Gin Kings’ 49 percent (35 of 71).
Lanete sparked Meralco’s strong start, scoring eight of his 15 points in the first quarter as the Bolts erected a 29-17 lead.
Hugnatan joined Lanete in the three-point shooting spree in the second quarter as Meralco unleashed a 15-0 run for a 44-24 lead in the first half.
The Gin Kings came out firing in the second half, cutting the deficit to just four points, 90-86, with 3:45 left after a Mark Caguioa jumper. But that proved to be the closest that the defending champions could come as the Bolts uncorked an 8-2 run to extend the best-of-seven series.
Justin Brownlee led Ginebra with 23 points. Greg Slaughter, who again started for Ginebra, finished with 18, while LA Tenorio and Scottie Thompson added 12 points apiece. Joe Devance chipped in 11 in a losing effort.
MERALCO 98 – Durham 28, Hugnatan 24, Lanete 15, Newsome 10, Dillinger 9, Hodge 6, Amer 6, Caram 0.
BRGY. GINEBRA 91 – Brownlee 23, Slaughter 18, Tenorio 12, Thompson 12, Devance 11, Aguilar 6, Caguioa 6, Ferrer 3, Taha 0.
Quarters: 29-17, 54-37, 75-69, 98-91