MERALCO continued to live up to its reputation as a pre-tournament favorite, surviving a late scare by Alaska, 100-96, to gain the early lead in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts, who won all their six tune-up games in the preseason, remained unbeaten in two starts after building enough cushion to withstand an all too familiar rally by the Aces in a rematch of their Commissioner's Cup semifinal matchup.
Allen Durham anchored the Bolts with 36 points, 15 boards, six assists, three steals, and one block, while Chris Newsome Jared Dillinger, and Reynel Hugnatan provided the local support.
“It’s a good thing we were able to survive this weekend,” a relieved Bolts coach Norman Black said after they won for the second time in three days, following a 108-103 win over Phoenix last Friday. “I was worried because Alaska had been resting.”
Aces import LaDontae Henton fired 33 points, but missed a desperation three-pointer from left wing that could’ve tied the game with under 10 seconds left.
The Bolts looked headed for a blowout after Reynel Hugnatan buried a rare triple from top of the key off a second chance possession that made it 96-85 with a little less than two minutes remaining in the game.
But the Aces retaliated with a 9-1 run, capped by a Henton trey, to trim the gap to just three, 97-94 with 56.2 ticks left, before Durham stopped the bleeding with a layup in traffic.
While they welcomed back Vic Maneul, the Aces missed the presence of a fellow workhorse in Calvin Abueva, who is being given the chance to rest after a rigorous offseason schedule.
MERALCO 100 – Durham 36, Newsome 19, Dillinger 13, Hugnatan 11, Hodge 5, Caram 4, Nabong 4, Alapag 3, Buenafe 3, Uyloan 2, Jamshidi 0
ALASKA 96 – Henton 33, Jazul 13, Racal 11, Casio 8, Banchero 8, Manuel 6, Dela Rosa 4, Hontiveros 4, Thoss 3, Baclao 2, Exciminiano 2, Dela Cruz 2, Menk 0
Quarterscores: 20-28, 48-46, 73-64, 100-96