MERALCO picked up from where it left off before a long break as it grounded Phoenix, 81-66, to formally clinch a playoff berth in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts hardly showed signs of rust following a 16-day layoff as they erased an early deficit and kept the usually high-scoring Fuel Masters way below their average to cruise to the victory.
Baser Amer continued to live up to expectations after making his first All-Star appearance this year as the sophomore playmaker scored a game-high 20 points on top of three assists, while Alex Stepheson again anchored the team with 20 boards and 15 points.
As a result, the Bolts registered their third straight win and seventh overall in eight games, while handing the Fuel Masters their fifth loss in eight outings.
“Defensively we were pretty sharp,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “Offensively, we have a little bit of work to do, but I’m happy with our defense.”
After all, the Bolts held the Fuel Masters to a woeful 32-perecent shooting after making just 23 of their 72 shots, and forced their victims to commit 17 turnovers.
Amer took care of the offensive load as he scored half of his output in the payoff period, where the Bolts broke away after starting the quarter on a 17-7 run.
Chris Newsome added 19 points as he made all but one of his seven shots, completing his effort with four rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 28 minutes.
Jameel Mckay led the Fuel Masters with 16 points and 16 boards in 44 minutes as Cyrus Baguio was the only local who scored in double figures with 10 points 29 minutes.
MERALCO 81 – Amer 20, Newsome 19, Stepheson 15, Grey 8, Hodge 7, Caram 4, Hugnatan 3, NAbong 2, Chua 2, Daquioag 1, Dillinger 0, Faundo 0
PHOENIX 66 - McKay 16, Baguio 10, Jazul 7, Borboran 6, Torres 6, Dehesa 5, W. Wilson 5, Alolino 4, Kramer 3, Intal 2, J. Wilson 2, Miranda 0, Lanete 0
Quarterscores: 13-16, 34-29, 53-46, 81-66