MERALCO’s first loss hardly dampened its confidence as it got back on its resurgent run with a 99-91 victory over Alaska in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Saturday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Atoning for their seven-point defeat at the hands of San Miguel Beer last Sunday, the Bolts built an early lead that ballooned to a cushion enough to withstand a late rally to deal the Aces their first loss in five games.
The result left Star and San Miguel Beer as the only unbeaten teams remaining this conference.
Baser Amer sustained his impressive play with 19 points, missing a double-double by just one rebound, and adding five assists, and two steals in 41 minutes, while Alex Stepheson continued to anchor the middle with 26 rebounds and 17 points.
With the duo leading the way, the Bolts have now won five of their first six games, going 3-1 (win-loss) in their last four games where they also faced TNT KaTropa and Rain or Shine.
“These are really the toughest teams in the league,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “So it’s a big win for us mainly because…it puts somewhere at the top.”
“And Alaska’s a tough team to beat; they must be the most well-conditioned team in the league because they can press you for forty-eight minutes,” he added. “And we handled the pressure for about forty-five minutes.”
That’s because after establishing their biggest lead at 25, 91-66, halfway through the payoff period, the Bolts looked sloppy in the last few minutes as they allowed the Aces to finish the game on a 25-8 run.
Good thing, the Bolts retaliated with a few buckets here and there to keep the Aces at bay, highlighted by Amer knocking down a pull-up jumper off a crossover against Simon Enciso that doused Alaska’s run at one point.
Cory Jefferson led the Aces with 32 points and 13 boards, but found little help from the locals outside Simon Enciso and Calvin Abueva.
MERALCO 99 – Amer 19, Stepheson 17, Dillinger 15, Newsome 14, Chua 14, Hugnatan 8, Nabong 8, Yeo 4, Daquioag 0, Uyloan 0, Caram 0
ALASKA 91 – Jefferson 32, Enciso 14, Abueva 11, Galliguez 9, Dela Cruz 8, Exciminiano 6, Casio 5, Thoss 4, Pascual 2, Racal 0, Andrada 0
Quarterscores: 27-19, 50-35, 76-60, 99-91