Meralco held it together for a change and made the best-of-seven series for the PBA Governors’ Cup championship close again with a 94-81 Game 3 victory over Barangay Ginebra on Wednesday night.
And the plot thickened for Friday’s Game 4 as both coaches didn’t shake hands as they exited the Smart Araneta Coliseum court.
Allen Durham did practically everything in the endgame for the Bolts, and Reynel Hugnatan stepped up at a time he was most needed as Meralco pulled away in the stretch to chop down the Gin Kings’ once-imposing lead to 2-1.
Durham finished with 38 points and 20 rebounds to lead Meralco. He scored 13 in the fourth to keep the Bolts’ championship hopes afloat.
Color developed between coaches Norman Black and Tim Cone when the Ginebra mentor refused to shake Black’s hand after the game, obviously in protest to a Meralco timeout with 38 seconds left and the outcome already beyond doubt.
It could be the additional fuel added to the fire for both teams, as Black, when asked to talk about the incident, said: “We all know that he is the all-time leader in (championship) wins and I have never in my life told him how to coach his team.
“All of a sudden he is telling me how to coach mine.”
Cone talked briefly to his players inside the locker room and left the venue without dropping by the press room.
The Bolts pounded out the victory despite losing Ranidel de Ocampo early to a calf injury, which Black thinks is so severe that he already announced that the veteran power forward will be out for the rest of the series.
“Moving forward, we will go to war with the pieces that we have,” Black said. “It will be tough.”
Hugnatan, after averaging just over six minutes in the first two games of the series, took over when De Ocampo limped out and hit 7-for-12 from three-point range to complement Durham’s inside game.
He finished with 22 points after making just two in the first two games, and earned praise from Black.
“Game becomes a lot easier if we make shots,” Black said. “And Reynel did a good job spacing the floor for AD (Durham) by making a lot of three-pointers for us.”
Meralco limited Ginebra import Justin Brownlee to just 15 points with a defense that also forced 19 turnovers.
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