Meralco finally developed a strong character in the endgame to repulse Phoenix, 90-87, and stay unbeaten in four games on Sunday in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Commissioner’s Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
After a forgotten 1-10 win-loss record performance in the Philippine Cup, the Bolts refused to be bullied in this conference particularly in their fourth match against the newcomer Fuel Masters who pushed them to the limits in the entire game.
But swingman Jared Dillinger, who finished with just 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting in the three-point zone plus four rebounds, hit the pivotal three-pointer to hand the Bolts an 89-86 cushion with 47 ticks left in the payoff frame.
Phoenix narrowed the gap to only 87-89 after import Kenny Adeleke’s split free throw with 18 seconds left, but Meralco’s defense stood tall in the endgame forcing the Fuel Masters to commit a costly blunder in the dying seconds to preserve the win.
“I’m really proud of my team tonight,” Meralco mentor Norman Black told reporters during the post game interview. “We are missing our shots and our foul shots in the end, but our defense held up. We’ll rely on our defense in the up coming games.”
Rookie Chris Newsome, who sizzled 10 of his 16 points in the third period on 7-of-11 shooting overall in the field, missed his first free throw before making his second attempt to peg the final count with still four seconds to go in the game.
Josh Urbiztondo of Phoenix was caught by Meralco’s swarming defense as the final buzzer expired.
It was also a good indication for Meralco in its first four games this conference unlike last Philippine Cup, where it collapsed in the endgame in most games. It only shows that the Bolts have learned a lot from that bitter experience last conference.
Import and former National Basketball Association 6’8 player Arinze Onuaku racked up 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the field plus 18 rebounds and four blocks to lead Meralco.
Veteran guard Gary David posted 13 points, while Cliff Hodge and freshman Amer Baser chipped in eight points apiece also for the Bolts, who are now just a one win away of matching their last year’s best start of 5-0 win-loss record also in the Commissioner’s Cup.
Phoenix, which bought the Barako Bull franchise recently, suffered its first loss in two games to drop to 1-1 win-loss record.
Ryan Roose Garcia, who led the Fuel Masters with 33 points in a first franchise win against Northern Luzon Expressway last Tuesday, was only limited to 15 points after hitting 11 in the first quarter. He issued also five assists.
In the second game, Barangay Ginebra notched its first victory beating Rain or Shine 103-92 behind the 38 points and 20 rebounds of import Othyus Jeffers.
Ginebra registered a 1-2 win-loss record while Rain or Shine fell to 1-2 win-loss record.
Import Antoine Wright, who replaced the injured Wayne Chism, debuted with 16 points on 4-of-16 shooting in the field plus eight boards.