Motivated to put its gloomy past behind, Meralco opened the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup with a 94-86 escape act over Mahindra Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Slowly coming to his own, Baser Amer led the Bolts with 19 points on a 3-of-7 shooting from threes, alongside three rebounds, and three assists, while Chris Newsome chipped in 17 markers, seven boards, and seven dimes.
“We needed it. We worked very hard in the offseason to try to improve our game,” said coach Norman Black.
Alex Stepheson also displayed his defensive might, tallying 11 points, 21 rebounds and three blocks in his debut for Meralco.
“We tried to recruit an import who can fill our needs in the middle, but we still need to give Alex time to get in shape. He needs to work on his conditioning, but in terms of him controlling the defensive boards, he really helps us in that area,” said Black of his new import.
In-form all game long, the Bolts took a 78-67 lead midway in the payoff period, but still had to fend off a James White-led rally for the Floodbuster as the opposition got to even as close as four, 86-82, with 1:52 remaining.
However, Meralco had Newsome and Cliff Hodge to seal the deal late, extending the lead back up to nine, 91-82 in the final minute.
White carried Mahindra with 33 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks, while Alex Mallari fired 21 markers, seven assists, and five boards off the bench.
MERALCO 94 – Amer 19, Newsome 17, Stepheson 11, Caram 10, Hodge 9, Chua 8, Dillinger 8, Uyloan 6, Hugnatan 4, Nabong 2, Daquioag 0, Faundo 0.
MAHINDRA 86 – White 33, Mallari 21, Celda 9, Galanza 9, Arana 5, Salva 3, Ballesteros 2, Nimes 2, Deutchman 2, Paniamogan 0, Revilla 0, Caperal 0, David 0, Yee 0.
Quarters: 22-18, 44-33, 66-58, 94-86.