MERALCO continued to prove that it’s for real as it toppled Rain or Shine, 89-83, after shrugging off a late scare to grab the solo lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Bolts held the Elasto Painters below 90 points for the first time this conference and turned to Alex Stepheson and Baser Amer on the offensive end to deal the defending champions their first loss in four games.
The Bolts stretched their winning streak to four games to surpass their win total in the season-opening Philippine Cup.
“It was another great defensive effort against a high-scoring team,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “That’s what it takes for us to win.”
“And special mention to Baser Amer, who has been playing exceptional basketball,” he added. “And Alex continued to control the boards for us.”
Amer sustained his impressive play as he poured in 17 points, 11 boards, six assists, and one steal in 33 minutes, knocking down a tough running bank shot that gave the Bolts an 85-76 lead with a minute a 41 seconds left.
The sophomore playmaker from Davao then capped his performance with an assist to Stepheson, who converted an inside incursion that put them up, 87-83, and put an end to seven unanswered ROS points that had trimmed the Bolts’ lead to just two points.
Stepheson finished with a team-high 21 points, but it was his 15 boards that the Bolts needed more as the hulking import completed his effort with three assists, two blocks, one assist, one steal, and only one turnover in 36 minutes on the court.
Shawn Taggart fired game-high 27 points, including the quick two off a timeout that nudged the E-Painters to within two points, adding 13 boards, one assist, and one block in 36 minutes in a losing effort, while Jericho Cruz was the only other double-digit scorer for the team.
MERALCO 89 – Stepheson 21, Amer 17, Hodge 12, Dillinger 9, Nabong 8, Newsome 7, Daquioag 6, Caram 6, Hugnatan 3, Chua 0, Faundo 0, Uyloan 0
ROS 83 – Taggart 27, Cruz 12, Norwood 9, Almazan 8, Chan 7, Ahanmisi 6, Yap 6, Belga 5, Washington 3, Tiu 0, Tolomia 0, Ponferada 0, Trollano 0
Quarterscores: 17-13, 45-34, 64-59, 89-83