MERALCO pounced the absence of Tropang TNT’s import in the second half, hacking out an 88-84 victory to keep its unbeaten start in the PBA Commissioners’ Cup on Saturday at the Philsports Arena.
With Ivan Johnson ejected late in the second quarter and eventually banned for life from the league following an altercation with league commissioner Chito Narvasa, the Bolts kept the Texters at bay and did enough against their sister squad to notch a second straight win.
With the 2-0 start, Meralco has already surpassed its win total last conference.
The Texters failed to follow up an opening-day win over Blackwater to drop to an even 1-1 win-loss card.
Ironically, the Tropang Texters also took that win without Johnson, who was suspended one game for figuring in a fight during a tune-up match against Blackwater.
“We got a little bit fortunate today with Ivan being thrown out,” Bolts coach Norman Black admitted. “It worked to our advantage.”
Jared Dillinger registered 14 and 11 boards to provide the spark off the bench and lead a balanced effort that saw seven Bolts scoring at least nine points each.
Still, the Texters refused to go down without a fight, keeping the game close throughout and nudging to within four, 86-82, after a three-pointer by Ranidel de Ocampo with 15 seconds left before folding.
Despite the absence of Johnson, Meralco counterpart Arinze Onuaku still wound up with just 14 points, seven boards, four steals, and two assists in 40 minutes.
Johnson finished with nine points, four boards, and one block before going out after 15 minutes of play.
MERALCO 88 – Hodge 15, Dillinger 14, Onuaku 14, Faundo 11, Alapag 10, Amer 10, Newsome 9, David 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Bono 0, Buenafe 0, Caram 0, Hugnatan 0, Nabong 0
TROPANG TNT 84 – Castro 25, Fonacier 15, Johnson 9, Williams 8, De Ocampo 7, Reyes R. 7, Carey 6, Nuyles 4, Tautuaa 3, Ababou 0, Rosser 0, Reyes J. 0, Aban 0
Quarterscores: 16-20, 33-26, 61-55, 88-84