MERALCO came alive when it mattered most as it frustrated Blackwater, 102-91, on Easter Sunday to sustain its resurgence in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Entering the third quarter down by eight points, the Bolts tightened their defensive screws in the payoff period where they outscored the Elite, 30-11, to pull away to their second straight win and sixth overall in seven games.
The Bolts have already doubled their win total from the Philippine Cup to move on the verge of a quarterfinal berth after finishing second to last in the previous conference.
Jared Dillinger and Alex Stepheson led the huge turnaround, while Kelly Nabong provided a huge spark off the bench for the Bolts, who kept the Elite from putting up a winning streak, handing their opponents their fifth loss in six outings.
“We played much better in the second half,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “Our defense was much better.”
Dillinger registered a game-high 21 points, highlighted by three triples, the last from the right wing with 49 seconds left that proved to be the dagger that gave them a 100-88 lead.
Stepheson added 18 points, 15 boards, five assists, and two steals in 38 minutes, while Nabong was the trump card this time, chipping in 13 points and missing a double-double by just one rebound in 22 minutes.
Chris Newsome and Baser Amer continued their steady play at the backcourt as the former scored on a jumper that gave the Bolts their biggest lead at 14 and completed a 23-point turnaround.
The result spoiled an all-around performance from Greg Smith who poured in 19 points, 14 caroms, seven assists, three steals, and three blocks in 43 minutes that went for naught for Blackwater.
Meralco 102 – Dillinger 21, Stepheson 18, Newsome 14, Nabong 13, Amer 12, Hugnanatn 9, Daquioag 7, Yeo 4, Chua 4, Uyloan 0, Caram 0
BLackwater 91 – Smith 19, Digregorio 16, Canaleta 14, Pascual 8, Pinto 7, Sena 7, Cruz 5, Aguilar 5, Buenafe 5, Cervantes 3, Miranda 2, Sumang 0
Quarterscores: 22-24, 44-48, 72-80, 102-91