MERALCO survived its toughest test yet in its road to redemption, holding off virtual all-Filipino Rain or Shine, 98-95, to grab the solo lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts squandered an early 26-point lead, but held on in the payoff period behind import Arinze Onuaku, who scattered 31 points and 27 boards, to remain unbeaten after the starts.
Still, Meralco had a tough time disposing an Elasto Painters side that missed import Wayne Chism most of the second half following a hard fall.
“To be quite honest, after coming off a one-ten (win-loss) conference, I’ll take any victory I can get,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “A win is a win.”
The Bolts dealt the E-Painters their first loss after starting the conference with a win over Star last Saturday, although ROS made it a game after falling into a deep 57-31 hole late in the second quarter.
The Painters scored 17 unanswered points in a remarkable third-quarter comeback that saw them erase the deficit and tie the game entering the final frame.
But the Bolts refused to budge, keeping the Painters at bay, with Onukua scoring on stab that put his team up, 97-93, and spared them the blushes.
The result spoiled the breakout game of Painters top rookie pick Maverick Ahanmisi, who registered a career-high 19 points on top of six boards, three assists, and two steals.
JR Quiñahan added 15 points off the ROS bench, but missed two three-pointers in the endgame that could’ve sent the game into overtime.
MERALCO 98 – Onuaku 31, Dillinger 16, Hodge 12, Bono 9, Caram 8, David 5, Nabong 4, Newsome 4, Amer 3, Al Hussaini 2, Faundo 2, Ferriols 2
ROS 95 – Ahanmisi 19, Cruz 15, Quinahan 15, Norwood 12, Almazan 8, Chan 6, Ponferada 6, Belga 5, Chism 3, Tiu 3, Trollano 2, Matias 1, Ibanes 0, Nimes 0
Quarterscores: 19-15, 61-36, 76-76, 98-95