MERALCO found holes in San Miguel Beer’s cloak of invincibility, hammering out a 93-85 victory to underline its own title credentials in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Bolts proved to be a worthy title contender against the Beermen as they tightened their defensive screws all-game long before turning to a late salvo to hack out their third win in four games.
Baser Amer and Chris Newsome proved to be a thorn in the side of the Beermen, knocking down the dagger baskets at crunch time to spoil the much-awaited debut of No. 1 rookie pick Christian Standhardinger.
“We were hoping to catch them a little bit early and rusty,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “We just focused on our defense, because that’s the only way we think we can win games.”
Indeed, defense did it for the Bolts as they held the Beermen to just 34-of-86 shooting for a paltry 39.5-percent clip from the field, including 10-of-33 from long distance.
Arinze Onuaku anchored the defense with his mere presence as he ended up flirting with a triple-double of 13 points, 12 boards, eight assists, two steals, and two blocks in 43 minutes.
On offense, the Bolts’ backcourt duo showed the way as Amer pumped in 28 points, highlighted by five treys, eight rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 34 minutes, while Newsome continued his fine play with 23 points, seven boards, four assists, one steal, and one blocks in almost 40 minutes.
Jared Dillinger also put up a solid effort with 14 points, six caroms, two blocks, one assist, and one steal as the Bolts skipper scored nine of his output in the first period to set the tone for the good start.
The Bolts were still down, 76-77, before embarking on a 12-4 run - eight of their points coming from Amer – to finish off the rusty Beermen.
Standhardinger typified their rustiness as the celebrated top pick registered just four points on 2-of-5 shooting, five boards, two assists, and two steals in almost 20 minutes off the bench in his debut.
Troy Gillenwater led the Beermen with 19 points and 14 rebounds, but committed five turnovers, including one costly one in the endgame – an offensive foul that hastened their downfall.
MERALCO 93 – Amer 28, Newsome 23, Dillinger 14, Onuaku 13, Hodge 5, Caram 5, Baracael 2, Tolomia 2, Canaleta 1, Hugnatan 0, Bono 0
SMB 85 – Gillenwater 19, Fajardo 16, Cabagnot 16, Lassiter 15, Santos 10, Standhardinger 4, Heruela 3, Ross 2, Ganuelas-Rosser 0
Quarterscores: 23-24; 45-41; 68-65; 93-85