Meralco stayed on the winning side, fending off TNT, 94-89, to preserve its unbeaten slate Friday in the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Alex Stepheson topped the Bolts with a monstrous 20-point, 27-rebound statline, but didn’t really have to carry much of the load as the locals once again stepped up to the plate.
Baser Amer chipped in 17 markers, two boards, and two assists, while Jared Dillinger added in 17 points on a 3-of-8 shooting from threes.
Chris Newsome also tallied 10 markers, seven assists, and three rebounds, and Reynel Hugnatan got 10 points as Meralco stayed on top of the standings at 3-0.
Defense was once again the biggest factor in the Bolts’ victory, with them limiting their foes below 90 points.
“That seems to be the key,” said coach Norman Black. “That’s were trying to focus on: our defense. We don’t think we have the team to score 100 or 110 points every night so it’s very important for us to slow down our opponents.”
The Grand Slam-winning mentor also lauded his locals for providing aid to the hulking Stepheson down low, saying, “It’s a different feeling right now and it’s mostly because we have a man in the middle. Our locals also think we have a good chance to do well this conference.”
Meralco zoomed ahead in the second half as it used a 28-point third quarter strom to grab the lead and take control, 74-63 late in the period.
Though the KaTropa still tried to fight back and got to as close as three, 85-82 with 3:18 left, missed free throws and crucial miscues doomed TNT as Amer and Dillinger wrapped the win, 90-82, in the last 1:11.
Lou Amundson got 19 points and 18 rebounds for TNT in his debut, Roger Pogoy chimed in 10 of his 15 markers in the payoff period, to go with nine boards, and Ryan Reyes also had 11 points.
TNT also went on a woeful 8-for-21 shooting clip from free throws with Jayson Castro sitting out the conference-opener due to his hamstring injury.
MERALCO 94 – Stepheson 20, Amer 17, Dillinger 17, Newsome 10, Hugnatan 10, Faundo 6, Daquioag 5, Hodge 5, Chua 3, Caram 1, Uyloan 0.
TNT 89 – Amundson 19, Pogoy 15, Reyes 11, Fonacier 9, Rosario 6, Tautuaa 6, Rosales 6, Carey 5, Ganuelas-Rosser 4, De Ocampo 3, Williams 3, Tamsi 2, Golla 0, Hernandez 0.
Quarters: 22-22, 46-50, 74-68, 94-89