The Meralco Bolts raised the curtains on their 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign on a triumphant note after staving off Mahindra Floodbuster’s scoring runs, 94-86, Friday night at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
“We needed it. We worked very hard in the off-season to improve our game,” said Meralco head coach Norman Black with the win, which gives them a 1-0 slate in the standings.
Baser Amer starred for the Bolts with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting along with three rebounds and three assists, while backcourt partner Chris Newsome produced 17 markers, seven boards, and seven dimes.
“The locals really stepped up tonight. Baser Amer stands out on my mind right now. He has really matured between the two conferences. It seems that he has a better grasp of the PBA and it came out today,” Black remarked about the sophomore floor general
Foreign reinforcement Alex Stepheson, despite scoring just 11 markers on 5-of-14 shooting, imposed his presence inside the paint as he hauled down a game-high 21 rebounds.
“I have to get Alex in time to get in shape but his size itself gives us help in most areas,” Black said of his 6-foot-9 reinforcement. “We need to get Alex to get in top shape and his teammates like him.”
The Bolts led by as much as 14 early in the third quarter, but the Floodbuster came knocking at the door through a 10-1 run led by Alex Mallari’s seven points, and inched within a point, 68-67, with 9:11 to go in the payoff period.
However, Meralco responded with their own scoring spree, unloading 10 straight points lit by Amer’s triple and capping it with a Newsome putback off a Dillinger missed free throw, to re-establish a double-digit lead, 78-67, with
Mahindra tried to stage one last run late in the game. A James White three-point play brought them within four, 86-82, but a turnover by Mark Yee followed by a Newsome lay-up and a Hodge triple proved to be the Bolts’ finishing touches.
The returning White paced Mahindra with 33 points on 14-of-26 shooting along with 16 rebounds. Alex Mallari backed him up with 21 markers by going 9-of-15 from the floor, and added seven assists and five rebounds in his stat line.
Both almost shot the same from the floor — Mahindra shot 45 percent from the field, while Meralco shot just had 43 percent. However, Meralco reigned supreme on rebounds, 58-42, and on second chance points, 16-7.
Both teams will play this Sunday, March 19, still at the Big Dome. Mahindra will play Rain or Shine first at 4:30 PM, while Meralco will face NLEX at 7:00 PM.
Meralco (94) – Amer 19, Newsome 17, Stepheson 11, Caram 10, Hodge 9, Chua 8, Dillinger 8, Uyloan 6, Hugnatan 4, Nabong 2, Daquioag 0, Faundo 0.
Mahindra (86) – White 33, Mallari 21, Celda 9, Galanza 9, Arana 5, Salva 3, Ballesteros 2, Nimes 2, Deutchman 2, Paniamogan 0, Revilla 0, Caperal 0, David 0, Yee 0.
Quarterscores: 22-18, 44-33, 66-58, 94-86.