Meralco unleashed a strong finishing kick to beat Blackwater, 102-91, and clinch the first quarterfinals seat in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 42 Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Kelly Nabong provided the hustles and points for the Bolts and teamed up with Jared Dillinger and import Alexander Stepheson in the final canto to improve their record to 6-1.
“This is a good win for us. Our defense was much better in the second half,” said Meralco coach Norman Black, whose team trailed 72-80 entering the fourth period.
The Bolts outscored the Elite in the payoff period, 30-11, with Nabong unloading 11 of his 13 points in that stage. Nabong also had nine boards.
Rookie Ed Daquioag’s gave Meralco its first taste of the lead in the second half, 85-84, with 7:21 left in the game.
The Bolts extended the lead to 92-86 behind Nabong and Stepheson with 4:41 remaining.
Meralco unloaded a decisive 10-0 burst highlighted by Dillinger’s three-pointer and Chris Newsome’s to pull away, 102-88, 17 ticks left.
Dillinger finished with 21 points, including 14 in the second half, while Stepheson tallied 18 points, 15 rebounds and five assists to lead the Bolts. Newsome posted 14 points and point guard Baser Amer added 12 points in addition to his nine rebounds.
The Elite, who were coming off a 113-118 win over the GlobalPort recently, fell to 1-5.
Import Greg Smith had an all-around performance of 19 points, 14, rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks to lead Blackwater. But Smith scored just two points in the last period mainly because of the Bolts’ pesky defense.
Mike Digregorio added 16 points, while Nino Canaleta scored all of his 14 points in the third period for the Elite.
MERALCO 102 – Dillinger 21, Stepheson 18, Newsome 14, Nabong 13, Amer 12, Hugnanatn 9, Daquioag 7, Yeo 4, Chua 4, Uyloan 0, Caram 0.
BLACKWATER 91 – Smith 19, Digregorio 16, Canaleta 14, Pascual 8, Pinto 7, Sena 7, Cruz 5, Aguilar 5, Buenafe 5, Cervantes 3, Miranda 2, Sumang 0.
Quarter Scores: 22-24, 44-48, 72-80, 102-91