Meralco showed little rust even after nearly two months of layoff as it took down NLEX, 110-100, to begin the 2021-22 PBA Governors’ Cup resumption on a rousing note, Friday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
Tony Bishop presided over the Bolts’ attack with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists in yet another stellar performance that saw him lead his side’s early breakaway towards their third win in as many games.
Aaron Black produced 19 points, while Chris Newsome supplied 18 points and seven rebounds. Allein Maliksi fired 17 markers.
Cliff Hodge notched a double-double of 11 and 12 as the team gave Chris Banchero a fitting welcome.
The Fil-Italian guard, who joined the club as a free agent, was in uniform and even participated in the pre-game warmups but did not see action.
“I think we’ve created a formula that we can use to win: It starts with defense,” offered head coach Norman Black of his wards’ start into the conference that has them sharing leadership of the standings with Magnolia. “Well, it starts with Tony Bishop, actually, being a very, very solid import and being very consistent every game. But it really starts with defense.”
Meralco actually trailed by three a little under three minutes into the match. Then the trio of Bishop, Newsome, and Hodge combined for 11 unanswered points to make it an 18-10 advantage for their side.
Bishop pushed their lead to 15 through a three-pointer, which also capped off his rousing first quarter outing that saw him score 14 points.
The Bolts went on to inflate their lead to as big as 20, 54-34, following Raymond Almazan’s split from the line with 1:34 left in the second period.
Their offense, however, slowed down a bit in the second half. That allowed the Road Warriors to chop down the deficit to just eight points with 37 seconds remaining behind the efforts of import KJ McDaniels.
However, time was not on the Road Warriors’ side. They absorbed their second straight loss after that Christmas Day defeat to Phoenix.
“It really starts with defense,” Black said, “the fact that we can actually go out and slow teams down and get them out of their offense.”
Meralco will now shift its focus for Sunday’s big game against defending champions Barangay Ginebra in another chapter of their rivalry.
Meanwhile, McDaniels led NLEX with 41 points on a 57-percent clip and 12 rebounds against seven turnovers.
Kevin Alas had a quiet 16 points. Rookie Calvin Oftana added 10 markers and seven boards in the loss that dropped their record to 4-2.
As a consolation, however, the Road Warriors received a solid outing from Gilas draftee Matt Nieto, who finally made his PBA debut.
The former national team stalwart played for 21 minutes off the bench. He produced 10 points on 42-percent shooting, two assists, and a rebound.
NLEX will return to action on Wednesday, February 16, against Magnolia at 3:00 PM.
Meralco 110 – Bishop 32, Black 19, Newsome 18, Maliksi 17, Hodge 11, Quinto 6, Caram 4, Almazan 3, Belo 0, Canete 0, Pasaol 0.
NLEX 100 – McDaniels 41, Alas 16, Oftana 10, Nieto 10, Semerad 6, Cruz 6, Ighalo 5, Trollano 2, Varilla 2, Quiñahan 2, Rosales 0, Soyud 0, Magat 0.
Quarterscores: 33-18, 62-45, 88-74, 110-100.
The second game of each playdate is also livestreamed on SMART Sports.