MERALCO sustained its resurgence in an import-loaded conference as it held off TNT KaTropa, 94-89, to grab the solo lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts set their affinity with the Texters aside as they gave their sister squad a rude welcome in their conference debut, scoring their third straight win to already match their win total in the Philippine Cup.
Alex Stepheson left a huge imprint in the paint again, tallying 20 points and 27 boards to lead a balanced effort that also saw Baser Amer and Jared Dillinger deliver.
“Our defense was solid against a potent offensive team in Talk ‘N Text,” Bolts coach Norman Black said.
“But we got a lot of (offensive) contributions,” he added. “Baser was again very good, JD stepped up and played very well, and Alex was really dominating the inside and controlling the rebounds.”
The Bolts, though, benefited from the absence of top TNT local Jayson Castro, who is recovering from a hamstring injury.
Texters import Lou Amundson was decent in his debut with 19 points and 18 boards, giving prospect-on-standby Donte Green a chance to take his spot.
Amer continued to be aggressive as the sophomore playmaker registered 17 points on 14 attempts, along with two assists and two boards in 37 minutes.
Dillinger added 17 points as well, highlighted by a triple from the corner that gave the Bolts a 90-82 lead with a little over a minute left, enough cushion to withstand a late rally by the Texters.
Roger Pogoy stepped up among the TNT locals, firing 15 points, including 10 in the payoff period where the Texters tried to make things interesting.
MERALCO 94 – Stepheson 20, Amer 17, Dillinger 17, Newsome 10, Hugnatan 10, Faundo 6, Daquioag 5, Hodge 5, Chua 3, Caram 1, Uyloan 0
TNT 89 – Amundson 19, Pogoy 15, Reyes 11, Fonacier 9, Rosario 6, Tautuaa 6, Rosales 6, Carey 5, Ganuelas-Rosser 4, De Ocampo 3, Williams 3, Tamsi 2, Golla 0, Hernandez 0
Quarterscores: 22-22, 46-50,74-68, 94-89