Coming off a loss to the San Miguel Beermen five days ago, the Meralco Bolts bounced back successfully as they avoided a late-game meltdown to Alaska Aces, 99-91, and brought the latter to their first loss on Saturday night at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
“I thought we did a pretty good job for like 44 minutes I guess,” said Bolts head coach Norman Black in the win, which improves their record to 5-1.
“In the last three minutes we got a little bit sloppy and to be quite honest with you, we looked like we got a little bit tired. I’m just happy with the win. I’ll take it,” Black confessed.
In the redeeming victory, point guard Baser Amer anchored the Bolts with 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting along with nine rebounds, five assists, and two steals for an all-around effort.
The Bolts were leading the Aces by 25, 91-66, after a pair of free throws by Jared Dillinger with exactly 6:01 to go. But their lead faded in a snap, as Alaska unleashed a furious 17-2 rally — anchored by Simon Enciso and capped by a Tony Dela Cruz triple — to close within 10, with 1:41 left to play.
A Baser Amer jumper looked to be the dagger, as it lifted Meralco up 12, 95-83, but Cory Jefferson sank a triple on the other end to threaten within nine, 95-86. However, a Calvin Abueva foul — his sixth — sent Jared Dillinger to the line. He calmly sank his shots, and the Bolts led by 11 again, 97-86.
The Aces made five more points, but time was not on their side, as Meralco posted their fifth win in six games.
“It’s just a big win for us today mainly because we faced San Miguel already, we face Talk ‘N Text already, we faced Alaska, so these three our toughest teams in the league and we were able to get a win today which at least puts us somewhere at the top,” Black shared.
Alex Stepheson backed up Amer with 17 points on a 53-percent shooting clip and 26 rebounds in 40 minutes of playing time. Dillinger produced 15 points, while Chris Newsome and Justin Chua each had 14, with the latter scoring all of his points in the first half.
Alaska were led by Jefferson with a game-high 32 points, going 13-of-20 from the field alongside 13 boards and three blocks. Enciso supplied 14 points, three assists, and five steals in the loss, which drags them down to 4-1.
The Bolts clearly dominated the battle of the boards, out-rebounding the Aces through a huge margin, 60-34. They also capitalized on those rebounds, especially in the offensive end, converting them to 27 points.
However, turnovers negated Meralco’s statline, as they committed 21 turnovers that led to 21 points for Alaska.
Meralco will try to spark another streak as they face Blackwater on April 16, Sunday, at 4:30 PM, while Alaska will look to bounce back versus Phoenix on April 21, Friday, at 4:15 PM. Both matches will be held at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
Meralco (99) – Amer 19, Stepheson 17, Dillinger 15, Newsome 14, Chua 14, Hugnatan 8, Nabong 8, Yeo 4, Daquioag 0, Uyloan 0, Caram 0.
Alaska (91) – Jefferson 32, Enciso 14, Abueva 11, Galliguez 9, Dela Cruz 8, Exciminiano 6, Casio 5, Thoss 4, Pascual 2, Racal 0, Andrada 0.
Quarterscores: 27-19, 50-35, 76-60, 99-91.