The Meralco Bolts dispatched San Miguel, 93-87, in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup to spoil the Beermen debut of CJ Perez, the return of Junemar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo and the historic outing of Arwind Santos, Sunday (July 18) at the Ynares Sports Arena.
Through the collective hats of Chris Newsome, Aaron Black, Reynel Hugnatan and Nard Pinto, the Bolts rode a second half surge, which turned a slim 42-41 edge into a 74-59 advantage, en route to a 2-0 win-loss record.
Newsome was the main man for Meralco as he scored a team-high 17 points, to go along with six assists, four rebounds and two steals. He conspired with Black in the homestretch, thwarting San Miguel's comeback attempt with momentum-swinging blows.
Black contributed 14 points built on three triples off the bench. A pair of his three-pointers came past the midway mark of the fourth that sent back the Beermen, who knocked to within two at 77-79.
Also instrumental for the Bolts were Hugnatan and Pinto who poured in 13 and 11 markers, respectively.
“We settled down a little bit towards the end of the first quarter and the second quarter, and we started playing our game and started defending a lot better in the second half," said Meralco head coach Norman Black.
"I think our conditioning probably came into play as we were able to pull away a little bit," he continued.
It also did not help San Miguel's cause that Terrence Romeo, who had a game-high 18 points in the contest, left the match for good early in the final frame after twisting his left ankle.
Mo Tautuaa saw his double-double of 17 markers and 10 rebounds go to waste, while Perez scored 17 in his first San Miguel game since getting shipped from Terrafirma in the off-season.
Santos, for his part, finished with eight points and eight boards to reach 4,000 career defensive rebounds in the loss.
In his first official action in two years, Fajardo, who came back from a shin fracture, tallied five points on 2-of-7 shooting from the field and five rebounds in 18 minutes.
Rey Nambatac and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters picked up their second win in the All-Filipino Conference after beating the Blackwater Bossing, 71-62.
Fresh off a season-opening win over NLEX two days ago, the Elasto Painters sustained their fine form to gain a share of early lead in the standings alongside Meralco, while keeping the Bossing winless in two games.
Nambatac, who produced 19 points and eight rebounds in the previous game, left his imprint on both ends once more. He top the scoring charts with 21 and hauled down 12 rebounds, serving as the eye of Rain or Shine's offensive storm.
Norbert Torres and Javee Mocon complimented Nambatac, as the former collected 13 points and five boards while the latter posted a double-double of his own with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Beau Belga, for his part, chipped in eight markers and 10 rebounds in the win.
As productive as the Elasto Painters were on the offensive end, head coach Chris Gavina attributed their recent success to their stifling defense.
"Our defensive identity carried us tonight," said Gavina.
"Although it was a low-scoring game, our defense had to stay, and our disposition on the defensive end really carried us tonight. Great effort from our guys."
True enough, Rain or Shine's caused problems for Bossing as only two players from Blackwater scored in double figures.
Kelly Nabong topped the losing side with 18 points along with seven rebounds, as Ed Daquioag managed 10.
Coming off a stinging loss to Rain or Shine on opening day, the NLEX Road Warriors dumped their frustrations on reigning champion Barangay Ginebra, 94-75, to barge into the win column of the Philippine Cup.
The one-two scoring punch of Kevin Alas and Kiefer Ravena dealt damage on all cylinders for the Road Warriors, pouncing on the wasteful Kings who had a rough shooting night in their campaign opener.
"We are actually lucky that Ginebra is playing their first game. They were making the adjustments. This is not the full potential of Ginebra," NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao said as Ginebra shot a dismal 15-percent from deep and even went 0-for-15 from three-point range in the first half.
"Of course, we are very lucky we got them on their first game."
Lucky as it may seem for Guiao, the Road Warriors still earned the victory through a balanced offensive thrust spearheaded by Alas and Ravena.
Alas knocked down three triples on his way to a game-high 20 points, while Ravena came through with 19 markers, five assists, three steals and two rebounds.
Don Trollano and Anthony Semerad also made their presence felt for NLEX with 11 points each, with Semerad scoring all but two of his total from outside. JR Quinahan, for his part, put up a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double in the winning effort.
The Kings, on the other hand, relied on Japeth Aguilar's 15-point outing and Scottie Thompson's near triple-double production of 12 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists in the deflating loss.
Christian Standhardinger, Ginebra's newest acquisition, struggled in his team debut, even going scoreless in the first half, and finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.
You may also be interested with: