MERALCO showed how different a team it is in import-loaded conferences as it held off Mahindra, 94-86, on Friday for a rousing start to its PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
After finishing the Philippine Cup second to last with just three wins to show in 11 games, the Bolts started the midseason tournament on a high note behind a balanced effort from their locals and hulking import.
Cliff Hodge knocked down two huge triples from the left wing down the stretch, while Baser Amer and Chris Newsome carried most of the offensive load for the Bolts, who drew a solid showing from reinforcement Alex Stepheson.
Stepheson finished with 11 points, 21 boards, and three blocks.
“It’s nice to see you, guys, right away,” a smiling Bolts coach Norman Black addressed reporters in the post-game conference after appearing just thrice in the press room as a winning coach in the all-Filipino conference.
“We had contributions from a lot of guys … and we tried to recruit an import that would fulfill our needs in the middle,” he added.
Amer heated up after a scoreless first quarter as the Davaoeno playmaker fired all his team-high 19 points in the last three periods, along with three boards, three assists, three steals, and just one turnover in almost 30 minutes of play.
Newsome added 17 markers and completed an all-around effort with seven boards, seven assists, and one steal in 32 minutes, while Hodge poured in all but one of his nine points in the payoff period to seal the deal for the Bolts.
The result spoiled the outstanding showing of James White, who tallied 33 points, including 14 in the final frame, on top of 16 boards, and four blocks in 40 minutes for Mahindra.
Alex Mallari added 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting, seven assists, five boards, and four steals that went for naught.
MERALCO 94 – Amer 19, Newsome 17, Stepheson 11, Caram 10, Hodge 9, Dillinger 8, Chua 8, Uyloan 6, Hugnatan 4, Nabong 2, Faundo 0, Daquioag 0
MAHINDRA 86 – White 33, Mallari 21, Galanza 9, Celda 9, Arana 5, Salva 3, Ballesteros 2, Nimes 2, Deutchman 2, Paniamogan 0, Caperal 0, David 0, Revilla 0
Quarterscores: 22-18, 44-33, 66-58, 94-86