Baser Amer made some crucial baskets down the stretch for the Bolts (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
Just when Ginebra thought that they could sweep the series, the Bolts came out alive in Game 3. And just when the defending champions thought that they could take a commanding 3-1 series heading into Sunday’s Game 5 at the Philippine Arena, the Meralco Bolts got the job done as they held on to win a close one in Game 4, an 85-83 victory against the crowd darlings which knotted the series at 2 games apiece.
Right from the tip-off, it didn’t take long until both squads started scoring. Justin Brownlee started things off with a dunk to energize the almost all Ginebra crowd as Joe Devance provided the early reinforcements as he drained two baskets, a trey and a 2-point basket to put Ginebra up, at 7-4 but the Bolts, coming off a much-needed Game 3 victory, roared back with 6 unanswered points to take a 10-7 advantage. The rest of the opening chapter of Game 4 was an up and down roller coaster ride as both squads were trying to pull away from one another. The first quarter ended with both teams tied at 17-all.
When the second quarter came along, that’s when things began to heat up for the Bolts as their Game 3 hero, the old man Reynel Hugnatan drained 2 three-pointers in the early moments of the quarter as the rest of the Bolts slowly chipped with Chris Newsome attacking the paint, so was Allen Durham. Even Baser Amer and Anjo Caram scored on numerous occassions.
However, the Gin Kings didn’t allow Meralco to run away as they went on a scoring run which was highlighted by Justin Brownlee’s 10 points which brought the champs within 38-37 with under 2 minutes to play in the first half. Brownlee dropped a long-distance bomb to put Ginebra up, at 40-38 with 40 seconds to play but Chris Newsome answered right back with a trey of his own to give the Bolts, a 41-40 heading into the halftime break.
A Touch of the Fast and the Furious: The Third Quarter Comeback
Thanks to Allen Durham, Hugnatan and Newsome, the Bolts built a lead which ballooned to 13 points. With his team down after Durham made a pair of freebies, Tim Cone first sent Mark Caguioa into the game and immediately scored a 2-point shot to decrease the deficit down to 11. Then, the crowd went nuts, really nuts as Jay Jay Halterbrand checked in for the first time and all of a sudden, the famed Fast and the Furious of Caguioa and Helterbrand was back in action and it really rippled to the reaction of the crowd as the chants of “GI-NE-BRA! GI-NE-BRA!” went louder and louder. Another basket by the Spark brought down the deficit to single digit from that moment on, Justin Brownlee 4 free throws to make it 65-58 with 1:11 left in the 3rd quarter. Mark Caguioa later added another lay-up as Justin Brownlee made another 3 to bring his team within 5, at 68-63 heading into the final quarter.
Early Struggles in the 4th
Both squads were struggling to get anything going in the early goings of the final frame as Joe Devance finally scored the Gin Kings’ first three points to make it 68-66 which was answered right back with Allen Durham yet again, scoring on a jump shot. Missed shots, missed free throws, turnovers and fouls mired the first four minutes of the 4th quarter until Japeth Aguilar slammed it home to make it 70-68 off a lob from Brownlee. And finally, Jay Jay Helterbrand scored his first field goal of the series on a lay-up to tie things up at 70-all with under 8 minutes to spare.
Up and Down. Until the End
Knowing the importance of a victory in Game 4, both teams engaged on a close slugfest as the teams took turns in either taking the lead and tying the score. Both imports played essential roles for their teams as they delivered the heavy blows in the closing minutes of the game.
Then came the final two minutes which began with Japeth Aguilar slamming it home anew plus a bonus free throw off a Cliff Hodge foul to give Ginebra, an 81-78 lead which was followed by Noman Black calling an important timeout. Allen Durham then had the chance to tie the score again after scoring inside while drawing a foul but missed a free throw, again. After several misses by both teams, Durham found an open Baser Amer who in turn, drained one of the most important treys of his young career to give the lead back to the Bolts, at 83-81 with 1:18 left on the clock. Justin Brownlee tied the game with a pair of charities but it was Allen Durham’s basket with 47 seconds that gave Meralco the lead and the WIN as Ginebra missed several opportunities to tie or even take the win- even missing the opportunity to draw out a play with under 20 ticks left with a timeout. No timeout. No play was drawn out. Missed baskets. Missed opportunities. Everything is back to zero.
Allen Durham, yet again, led the way for Meralco with 28 points and 18 rebounds. Chirs Newsome finally broke out of his slump to score 18 points and grab 11 rebounds. Grandpa Raynel Hugnatan contributed 14 points off the bench. Exactly like they did in Game 3, the Bolts shot better from rainbow distance in Game 4, making 8 of their 19 shots from that area. They also held a 13-9 advantage in the second-chance points. Irony, isn’t it?
For the defending champions, Justin Brownlee had 34 points while Joe Devance added 15 but nobody else followed suit and that doomed Tim Cone and the rest of the Gin Kings as they turned the ball over, 19 times, again. They were also out-rebounded, 17-12 on the offensive end- by the smaller Meralco players. Again, irony, isn’t it?
Durham 28, Newsome 18, Hugnatan 14, Amer 11, Hodge 7, Dillinger 2, Faundo 2, Caram 2, Lanete 1, Atkins 0, Yeo 0, Sedurifa 0, De Ocampo 0, Tolomia 0
Brownlee 34, Devance 15, Caguioa 8, J. Aguilar 7, Slaughter 6, Thompson 4, Cruz 4, Ferrer 3, Helterbrand 2, Tenorio 0, Mercado 0, Jamito 0, Mariano 0. R. Aguilar 0, Taha 0
17-17, 41-40, 68-63, 85-83