Jay R. Gotera
MANILA — The Barako Bull Energy forced a playoff for the last semifinals berth, edging the Meralco Bolts, 81-79, Sunday night in the PBA Governors’ Cup Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
With the victory, the Barako Bull tied Meralco and idle Powerade for sixth to eighth place in the standings, all with a 4-5 win-loss slate.
The Energy and the Tigers will face off in the first playoff match Tuesday.
The winner of that game will face the Bolts Wednesday for the last ticket to the semifinals. Meralco drew a bye in the playoffs because of its superior quotient.
In the nightcap of Sunday’s twinbill, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters scored a pulsating 92-90 win against the Talk N Text Tropang Texters to finish the elimination with a nearly immaculate 8-1 card. The Texters suffered only their third loss in nine games. The two teams were already assured of top seedings in the semifinals even before their match.
Meralco could have secured the last semifinal seat with a win Sunday. The Bolts appeared headed in that direction when they launched a scorching 19-3 run to come within a point of overtaking the lead, 80-79, with 36.9 seconds remaining after falling behind by as many as 17 points, 60-77, early in the fourth quarter.
The Energy committed a turnover in the next play, giving the Bolts a good chance to steal the game. However, the Energy ganged up on the hot-shooting Mario West in the ensuing play, forcing the latter to pass the ball to Dennis Daa just above the free throw line. With time running out, the seldom used reliever missed the potential game-winner.
LeRoy Hickerson grabbed the rebound, was fouled and split his charities for the final score.
Hickerson led Barako Bull with 22 points while Danny Seigle and Ronald Tubid chipped in 16 and 10 respectively.
West led all scorers with a conference-best 40 points.
Despite the win, Barako Bull coach Junel Baculi said his team could have done better. “We’re up 17 but we played not to lose. We didn’t play to win and that’s what happened,” he said. Had his team won by at least five points, they could have gotten a bye in the playoffs, forcing Meralco to face off Powerade first, before they go up against the winner of that match.