A rejigged Blackwater Elite fended off the Meralco Bolts in extra time, 94-91, to begin their 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign on a winning note, Sunday evening at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Mac Belo sank a put-back lay-up underneath with 32.4 seconds remaining in overtime. After, Mike DiGregorio calmly sank his free throws with 17 ticks left to give Blackwater a 93-89 lead, which they hung on to en route to the victory.
Belo tallied six points and eight rebounds.
“I’m just happy that the players stuck together, even though nalamangan kami ng Meralco, which is a very strong team with a very good coach,” said interim head coach Aris Dimaunahan. “I have to give it to my players.
“They stuck to the game plan. Even though we’re down, they stuck together and executed our offense. I’m proud of them for making those stops in the end game, and they didn’t fold. I always believe in these guys,” the youthful mentor added.
Import Alex Stepheson shone brightly in his PBA return, pouring 21 points and a league record-tying 31 rebounds against his former team Meralco. DiGregorio also supplied 21 markers, spiked by five three-pointers.
Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. was impressive in his PBA debut. He produced 20 points, eight rebounds, three steals, two assists, and a block in 41 minutes of playing time.
“Ray-Ray brings a lot of things to the table. He may not be all on scoring, but his leadership was shown here. He can make passes, he can make shots, he can defend. I’m happy for him, and we all welcome him here,” Dimaunahan remarked about the second overall pick in the 2018 PBA Draft.
Allein Maliksi chimed in 12 points in the victory.
Meralco’s loss spoiled the debut of foreign reinforcement Gani Lawal, who powered the Orangemen with a game-high 34 points on 44 percent shooting, along with 21 rebounds and three steals in the 43 minutes he saw action.
Lawal actually had a chance to send the game into another overtime, but his triple at the buzzer fell short.
Mike Tolomia was the only other double-digit scorer for the Bolts with 11 points.
Both Blackwater and Meralco will see action again on Friday, May 24, at the SMART Araneta Coliseum. Meralco will play at the 4:30 PM curtain-raiser versus the Columbian Dyip. Meanwhile, Blackwater will play at 7:00 PM against the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
Blackwater 94 –– Stepheson 21, DiGregorio 21, Parks 20, Maliksi 12, Belo 6, Sumang 4, Sena 4, Dario 3, Al Hussaini 2, Alolino 1, Tratter 0, Cortez 0, Javier 0.
Meralco 91 — Lawal 34, Tolomia 11, Jackson 8, Pinto 7, Newsome 5, Salva 5, Hodge 4, Amer 4, De Ocampo 4, Hugnatan 4, Canaleta 3, Caram 2, Espinas 0, Quinto 0.
Quarterscores: 17-19, 37-42, 64-63, 85-85, 94-91.