IMPORT Eric Dawson had an electrifying debut, dominating the paint and outmuscling Talk ‘N Text’s big men to power the rebuilding Meralco squad to a confidence-building 99-92 victory on Saturday night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Playing without its former team leader Solomon Mercado, whom the Bolts traded to Globalport a week ago, Meralco repeatedly went to Dawson who responded with a monster game capped by several big baskets down the stretch.
The 6’10” Dawson, the 2010 NBA D-League Impact Player of the Year, finished the game with 37 points, 16 in the final period just when the Tropang Texters were starting to make a run after falling behind by as many as 18 points late in the first half.
The former power forward of the Austin Toros in the NBA D-League also hauled down 14 rebounds, added four blocks and issued two assists in a performance that made him among the imports to watch in the mid-season tournament - and Meralco a darkhorse in the title race.
“One thing I like about him (Dawson) is when the game was on the line, he was there to deliver the goods for us,” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio of his prized American reinforcement.
Gregorio also commended playmaker Chris Ross for doing splendid job in distributing the ball.
Ross, who used to be Mercado’s backup, came out of his shell and finished the game with nine rebounds and eight assists. He used his speed to feed Dawson inside while setting up gunners Ronjay Buenafe and Mac Cardona on the perimeter for easy baskets.
“There comes a point in time when subtraction means addition. It’s hard to play two premiere guards and share minutes together. So with our decision to stay with Chris Ross, it gives us tremendous boost in the energy department,” added Gregorio of Ross.
Import Keith Benson had 25 points to lead the newly-crowned three-time Philippine Cup champions,but he fouled out with still 3:08 left to play. The 6-foot-11 Benson added 11 rebounds and two block shots.
Jimmy Alapag had 18 points, while Jason Castro was the only other TNT player in double figures with 17.
Meralco (99) -- Dawson 37, Buenafe 19, Cardona 16, Manuel 8, Hugnatan 8, Hodge 4, Borboran 3, Guevara 2, Ross 2, Timberlake 0, Reyes 0
Talk ‘N Text (92) -- Benson 25, Alapag 18, Castro 17, De Ocampo 9, Fonacier 7, Reyes 6, Dillinger 4, Raymundo 2, Al-Hussaini 2, Carey 2, Aban 0, Ferriols 0
Quarter scores: 27-14; 48-41; 68-62; 99-92.