MERALCO proved steadier in the clutch to outlast Phoenix, 90-87, and sustain its sizzling start in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Jared Dillinger buried the marginal three-pointer off a broken play, spelling the biggest difference in a nip-and-tuck affair in the second half as the Bolts remained unbeaten after four starts following an all-Filipino conference where they won just one game.
“It’s been a very big turnaround for us,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “We just hope we keep winning games.”
The Bolts handed the Fuel Masters their first-ever loss after starting the midseason conference with a victory, but actually not before trailing early after a sluggish start.
“We’re able to win on a night where we couldn’t shoot straight,” Black, whose team shot 44 percent from the field overall, said. “Our defense held up enough.”
The Bolts, though, delivered on offense when it mattered most as Dillinger took the cudgels and hit beyond the arc from the right wing with 47 seconds left that broke the last of 12 deadlocks.
Dillinger finished with 10 points, including seven in the payoff period, while import Arinze Onuaku continued to anchor the middle with 17 markers, 18 boards, four blocks, two assists, and one steal in 42 minutes.
Phoenix squandered a 12-point lead late in the second quarter and wasted plenty of chances to salvage the win in the endgame.
Willie Wilson tied the game at 86 after pouncing on mismatch with pint-sized Meralco point guard Anjo Caram, but the Fuel Masters failed to capitalize on the Bolts’ missed charities thereafter.
MERALCO 90 – Onuaku 17, Newsome 16, David 13, Dillinger 10, Amer 8, Hodge 8, Bono 4, Hugnatan 4, Nabong 4, Al-Hussaini 2, Caram 2, Faundo 2
PHX 87 – Garcia 15, Adeleke 13, Baracael 13, Brondial 12, Wilson 10, Urbiztondo 9, Lanete 8, Monfort 5, Intal 2, Pennisi 0
Quarterscores: 19-23; 40-47; 67-67; 90-87