Entering Easter Sunday, the Meralco Bolts had an eight day break. The effects off the long layoff showed for the majority of the first 36 minutes of the game.
“We played much better in the second half. Our defense was much stronger in the second half especially against Greg Smith,” said Meralco head coach Norman Black.
But once they woke up from their slumber, it was business as usual for the Bolts as they stifled the bruised Blackwater Elite in the final frame to take their sixth win of the season, 102-91, Sunday night.
“It’s nice to be able to play defense to win games. Our defense actually won us this game,” said Meralco head coach Norman Black on the win, which improves their card to 6-1.
“Offensively, we had a hard time finding our offense especially with the way they switched our pick and rolls,” added Black, regarding the slow pace they had come the second and third quarters due to Blackwater’s defense.
Jared Dillinger served as the Bolts’ anchor with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, three rebounds, and three assists. Alex Stepheson produced 18 points on 13 shots along with 15 rebounds in 38 minutes of action.
From eight points down to open the fourth quarter, 80-72, the Bolts found offensive spark from the troika of Nabong, Ed Daquioag, and Stepheson for a fiery 18-4 spree to turn things in their favor, 90-84, with 5:51 left.
From there, the Elite never had any chance to mount any comeback. After a Ronjay Buenafe lay-up, the Bolts then scored 10 straight capped by a Newsome bucket, 102-88, with 14.6 ticks to go to wham the nail in the coffin.
However, all the momentum they gained will once again be tested as the Bolts enter a 17-day break. It’s a challenge Black and his team will gladly accept.
“This is a good win for us because we have 17 days off afterwards. When you’re playing well, that’s the last thing you want,” rued Black on their looming weeks-long break. “[But] We will welcome it.”
Newsome contributed 14 markers for the Bolts, while Nabong added 13 on a 75-percent shooting clip off the bench. He also hauled down nine boards for a near double-double. Baser Amer produced 12 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and dished out three assists.
Greg Smith led the Elite with 19 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and three blocks for an all-around effort. Mike DiGregorio had 16, 11 coming from the first half, while KG Canaleta added 14 in the loss, which sends their record down to 1-5.
The Bolts out-rebounded the Elite 51-30, with their 15 offensive boards successfully turned to 13 second chance points. 52 of their points came from inside the paint.
The Bolts were without Cliff Hodge in the game. The Filipino-American forward was hurt in practice during the Holy Week. The Elite were still without ace rookie Mac Belo.
Meralco will look to win three in a row against Phoenix on May 3, Wednesday, 7:00 PM, still at the Big Dome, while Blackwater will look to bounce back against Star on Saturday, April 22, 5:15 PM at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Meralco (102) – Dillinger 21, Stepheson 18, Newsome 14, Nabong 13, Amer 12, Hugnatan 9, Daquioag 7, Chua 4, Yeo 4, Uyloan 0, Caram 0.
Blackwater (91) – Smith 19, Digregorio 16, Canaleta 14, Pascual 8, Pinto 7, Sena 7, Aguilar 5, Buenafe 5, Cruz 5, Cervantes 3, Miranda 2, Sumang 0.
Quarterscores: 22-24, 44-48, 72-80, 102-91.