MERALCO held a sluggish NorthPort side to its lowest point production in franchise history on the way to an 85-63 victory on Friday at the start of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Mac Belo impressed in his Meralco debut, scoring a career-high 27 points to go with nine rebounds as the Bolts got their season going with a dominating performance against a Batang Pier side that fired blanks all night.
“It really wasn’t a smooth first game,” Meralco coach Norman Black said. “Our offense was not as smooth as we would have liked. Fastbreaks were a little bit sporadic but luckily, fortunately, our defense held up.
"We played very good defense today as a team, and of course, Mac Belo had a big game for us. He scored a lot of points for us today.”
Batang Pier set franchise low in scoring
Meralco’s defense also stepped up, holding NorthPort to just 11 percent shooting in the first quarter and to 21 percent [17-for-81] the entire game - just slightly above the all-time low of 20 percent set by Coca-Cola in 2008.
NorthPort ended up shattering the previous franchise low of 68 points which it set in its two-point loss to Rain or Shine during last year’s Philippine Cup bubble, according to PBA statistics chief Fidel Mangonon.
The much-anticipated debut of Greg Slaughter in a NorthPort uniform didn’t happen as the Batang Pier coaching staff opted to sit the former Ginebra big man for the match-up after his arrival from the US.
In just his first match since being traded by Blackwater to Meralco during the offseason, Belo delivered. After hitting seven in the first half, Belo had 12 third-quarter points to lead the Bolts to a 60-41 advantage.
Allein Maliksi ably provided support on offense after his 14-point performance that included four three-pointers.
“It’s a good first game. It’s a good start," Black said. "You want to get off to a good start this conference. You don’t want to fall behind. Getting that first win is a big thing for us.”
Sidney Onwubere led NorthPort in scoring with 13 points. Robert Bolick scored 11 points in his comeback game from an ACL injury, but was only 4 of 19 from the field while No. 2 draft pick overall Jamie Malonzo added nine in his Batang Pier debut.
Meralco 85 – Belo 27, Maliksi 14, Quinto 8, Hodge 6, Pasaol 5, Black 4, Jose 4, Newsome 4, Jackson 3, Pinto 3, Hugnatan 3, Caram 2, Jamito 2, Canete 0, Almazan 0.
NorthPort 63 – Onwubere 13, Bolick 11, Malonzo 9, Ferrer 9, Anthony 6, Lanete 3, Rike 3, Taha 2, Balanza 2, Elorde 2, Grey 2, Faundo 1, Subido 0, Doliguez 0.
Quarters: 18-9; 36-29; 60-41; 85-63.