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Meralco escapes gritty Phoenix to open Governor’s Cup


In the opening game day of the PBA Governor’s Cup, the Meralco Bolts became the first team to nab a win with a 108-103 win over the young Phoenix Fuel Masters at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Friday evening.

Jimmy Alapag waxed hot in the first half, as the ‘Mighty Mouse’ scattered four triples to push Meralco on a 13-point lead. The Bolts saw their eight-point lead in the first quarter vanish, but relied on 14 transition fast break points to push them to a 54-41 lead. In addition, returning PBA import Allen Durham punished Phoenix, who played against a foul-troubled Marcus Simmons.

After the break, a tidal wave of momentum went Phoenix’s way, who went berserk from downtown. They opened the fresh half on a 14-2 burst to shock Meralco. The Bolts saw their established lead, which had grown to as high as 15, evaporate once again against the upstart Fuel Masters.

Meralco maintained a five-point advantage heading into the last quarter, with seven free throws to end the third. However, an unfazed Phoenix crew managed to tie the game at 81 on back-to-back threes by Simon Enciso and Josh Urbiztondo. The 6’0 ‘Fireball’ caught fire from the perimeter, knocking down one more three-ball to extend Phoenix’s lead to as high as four, 88-84.

The see-saw affair ensued in the payoff period with both teams making successive shots down the stretch. Durham shattered a 97-all deadlock with 3:01 left with free throws, followed by a layup by Chris Newsome. Despite Enciso drilling another shot from downtown, Allan Durham was simply unstoppable from crashing the boards, leading to four straight points off put-backs. The Bolts opened a five-point lead  that was sufficient enough for the win.

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Meralco had 50 points from the paint compared to the Fuel Masters’ 38. They also had more rebounds, 51-44, and second chance points, 19-13.

“I’m happy to be here as your first customer,” said Coach Norman Black to the press after the victory. “Good start for us. I was a bit concerned because Jamshidi just arrived yesterday and we did not have a chance to practice with him.”

“We tried to make things as simple as possible and thankfully we ended with the win.”

Meralco gave up 30 third quarter points to Phoenix, which Black saw as the team’s flaw in the game. “We came up lax after halftime, we steadied the ship by defense but we have a lot more to improve on,” he added.

Durham had a dominating 32-point, 22-rebound stat line to pace the Bolts. “We knew Phoenix gonna run, it was nice to see old teammates again,” Durham shared. “We kept our focus and kept our game plan. We slacked off a bit but scratch and claw our way back.”

Four more Meralco players tallied double-figures, with Alapag and Dillinger scoring 15 apiece. As for Phoenix, Marcus Simmons ended the loss with 21 markers, 11 rebounds; he was three assists shy of a triple double. Enciso chipped in 16 in their short comeback attempt.

Cyrus Baguio, who had been acquired two days ago from Alaska for second round picks in 2017 and 2018, suited up but did not see action on Coach Ariel Vanguardia’s discretion.

This game also featured Janine Nicandro, one of the two women referees set to officiate the Governor’s Cup.

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The two teams will once again hit the floor on Sunday as Phoenix (0-1) will face the defending champions San Miguel Beermen, while Meralco (1-0) look to build on this win against Alaska. Both games will be played at 4:00pm and 6:15pm respectively at the Big Dome.

The Scores:

Meralco (108) – Durham 32, Dillinger 15, Alapag 15, Newsome 13, Hodge 12, Jamshidi 9, Hugnatan 7, Nabong 2, Caram 2, Faundo 0, Uyloan 0.

Phoenix (103) – Simmons 21, Enciso 16, Urbiztondo 12, Wilson W. 11, Torres 8, Hee 7, Pennisi 6, Buenafe 6, Cruz 3, Borboran 2, Caperal 0, Lanete 0.

Quarterscores: 25-23, 54-41, 75-71, 108-103

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