Meralco's defense frustrated Star's offense
Kris Acox was limited to 7 points in the game (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
Two teams. Two different roads. One semi-final series. Both the Star Hotshots and the Meralco Bolts are also coming off different scenarios in their respective quarterfinal series. While Star only needed to win one game to get here, the Bolts on the hands were pushed to a deciding game but won, eventually. Coming into Game 1 of their best-of-5 semi-final series, a win here would enable the Bolts to get a good start with their aspiration to challenge for the championship, something they missed last season. For the Hotshots on the other hand, a victory against Norman Black and his team will bring them 2 more wins closer to the Finals, a place they haven't been to in a long time.
They fell behind early in the first quarter where they missed 16 shots. But for the rest of the game, it was the defense of the Meralco Bolts and the efforts of Allen Durham helped the Bolts to a Game 1 victory after scoring a 72-66 victory in Binan, Laguna.
Coming off from their one-game finish of the NLEX Road Warriors, the Star Hotshots got off to a good start and scored 9 unanswered points and forced Norman Black into calling a timeout because his team was clanking every shot they took during the first 3 minutes of the game. In addition to their inability to score and defend on the other end, the Bolts were also turning the ball over as the lead went up 11-0 with under 7 minutes to play in the first quarter. A free throw from Cliff Hodge ended the drought for Meralco and Allen Durham finally scored the Bolts' field goal in 12 attempts with under 5 minutes to go. Star sustained its scoring start as Jio Jalalon scored on a 3-point play to make 18-3. Marc Pingris added a fadeaway jumper to make it 20-3 with 2:54 remaining in the opening frame. The Hotshots held a 21-7 advantage heading into the second quarter.
Both teams began the second quarter by scoring on their first pairs of charities as Chris Newsome drained a trey to bring the gap down at 23-12 with 2 minutes into the quarter. The lead went down to 7 right after Jared Dillinger drained another three-pointer for Meralco as the Hotshots were able to answer back every Meralco basket. After both teams suffered a dry spell, Allen Durham scored on a lay-up to furthermore push the lead to 5 with under 4 minutes to play, this time forcing Chito Victolero to call for a timeout for Star. By the time halftime came along, the Hotshots were only leading by 4, at 36-32.
Paul Lee led the Hotshots with 9 points in the first half but only made 1 of his 4 attempts from downtown. Ian Sangalang added 7 points while import Kris Acox only managed 4 points. Star only managed to make 34% of their attempts.
The Bolts were able to recover from their 2 of 18 field goal shooting as they were led by Allen Durham, Chris Newsome and Jared Dillinger who all scored 7 points apiece during the first 24 minutes of play.
Both teams started the 3rd quarter on a much slower pace owing to the fact that both teams struggled to find any consistent rhythm early on. Just when Star began to run away anew, the Bolts surged back to tie the score at 41 apiece with under 7 minutes to play. Then, after drawing Kris Acox's 4th personal foul, Baser Amer gave Meralco their first taste of the lead at 43-41 on Baser Amer's free throws. The lead fell back to the hands of the Hotshots after an Ian Sangalang inside shot only to be answered by a basket by Durham to tie the score at 45 all. The rest of the third quarter became an up-and-down battle as Star, despite making one of their 16 attempts from rainbow country, brought a 53-47 into the final quarter of play.
Marc Pingris opened the final quarter with a pair of charities as PJ Simon scored 4 consecutive points to give the Hotshots a 12-point advantage early on. Durham returned the favor by scoring 6 unanswered points to cut the lead back to 6 with 7:17 to play. Then, after a very miserable scoring drought from deep, Mark Barroca finally nailed Star's second three-point attempt to put the Hotshots ahead by 11 with 5:23 remaining on the clock.Another Dillinger shot from beyond the arc dropped Star's lead to 6 in the ensuing possessions.
Another Meralco trey, this time from Ranidel de Ocampo pushed the lead down to 66-63 approaching the final 2-minute mark as Star fumbled towards a risky turnover which led to another Dillinger trey to tie the score, again. Dillinger gave back the lead to Meralco, at 68-66 approaching the final minute as Mark Barroca air-balled a jumper on the previous possession. After forcing Paul Lee into a turnover, Allen Durham scored a difficult shot to increase Meralco's lead to 4 with 33 ticks remaining. Then, Meralco forced another bad offensive possession for the Hotshots as Star refused to foul immediately after a Meralco inbound pass, allowing the Bolts to waste away before Star fouled eventually and Meralco drained the finishing free throws.
Allen Durham led Meralco's impressive fight back with 23 points and 23 rebounds while Jared Dillinger scored 15 points to lead Norman Black's men off the bench. Baser Amer contributed 10 points. Aside from limiting Star's production from the outside, Meralco had more points in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Hotshots 25-13 which allowed the Bolts to come out on top and take Game 1.
Jio Jalalon led Star with his 15 points including 9 of 9 shooting from the free throw line. Both Paul Lee and Mark Barroca scored 11 each as Kris Acox had to be disappointed with his 3 of 8 field goal shooting, only good for his 7 points. Although Star's overall field goal percentage wasn't far from what Meralco had, the former's horribly forgettable outing from rainbow distance was what doomed them even though they had a 17-point lead in the first quarter.
Meralco - 72
Durham 23, Dillinger 15, Amer 10, Newsome 7, Hodge 5, de Ocampo 5, Lanete 4, Hugnatan 3, Atkins 0, Yeo 0, Sedurita 0, Caram 0, Nabong 0, Faundo 0, Tolomia 0
Star - 66
Jalalon 15, Lee 11, Barroca 11, Sangalang 9, Acox 7, Simon 6, Pingris 4, Brondial 2, Reavis 1, Melton 0, Mendoza 0, Gamalinda 0, Ramos 0, dela Rosa 0, Abundo 0, Pascual 0
7-21, 32-36, 47-53, 72-66