After getting 'gorilla' off their back, Alapag, Meralco try to gain steam vs NLEX
Meralco guaard Jimmy Alapag is sidelined by a rib injury. Jerome Ascano

MERALCO aims to gain some steam this time as it tangles with NLEX on Tuesday in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Heaving a sigh of relief after finally capturing their elusive first victory in the all-Filipino conference with an 87-83 decision over Star last Saturday, the Bolts hope to keep going on the winning track in their 4:15 matchup against their sister team.

“That monkey turned into a gorilla there for a while on our backs,” said Bolts playmaker Jimmy Alapag, whose team had lost its first five games in the season-opening conference. “When you’re struggling, either you draw tighter together or break apart. And we’re not the type of team to break apart.”

“The important thing now is to build on this and hopefully get out of the cellar and get some breathing room before the playoffs start,” added the veteran point guard, who witnessed his team’s breakthrough on the sidelines as he was nursing a rib injury.

Rookie Chris Newsome, a combo guard who even played the two forward spots during his college days with Ateneo, suited up exclusively at the point against the Hotshots, taking turns in doing the playmaking chores with recently activated Simon Atkins.

“Putting me at the point guard was something that I expected coming in ever since being drafted,” said Newsome, this year’s fourth overall pick. “It’s something that I’ve actually been doing all year.”

“I thought it was a good opportunity for me to run the team,” added the Filipino-American playmaker, who had eight points, five assists, four boards, and four steals against three turnovers versus Star.

Alapag, who remains questionable against the Road Warriors, believes Newsome as well as Atkins fared well in quarterbacking the squad, save for a handful of errors when he was double-teamed.

“I thought New and Simon did a great job in settling us down and getting us into our sets,” he said.

Newsome faces off with another promising freshman guard in Simon Enciso and the rest of the Road Warriors, who are looking to build on a 107-101 win over another sister team in Talk ‘N Text, their third win in five games.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos