Bolts off to electrifying start, zap Batang Pier in PBA opener
MANILA, Philippines – Meralco flexed its defensive muscles and clobbered NorthPort, 85-63, to get off to an electrifying start in the PBA Season 46 Philippine Cup Friday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The Bolts stifled the Batang Pier to their lowest output in franchise history and a woeful 17-of-81 clip (21%) — now the second all-time lowest in a game by any team — to set the tone for the morale-boosting win ahead of their duel with San Miguel Beer on Sunday.
Trade acquisition Mac Belo immediately made a big impact for Meralco, turning in an error-free outing of 27 markers, nine rebounds and three assists.
Sidney Onwubere (13) and returning star Robert Bolick (11) paced NorthPort, which didn’t field Greg Slaughter yet.
Meralco joined Rain or Shine and Alaska in the march of victors in the kickoff of the long-awaited season.
Rain or Shine handed new coach Chris Gavina a triumphant debut via an 83-82 squeaker over NLEX
Rey Nambatac and Beau Belga knocked down clutch baskets as the Elasto Painters survived a wild finish to emerge victorious.
Nambatac fired 19 points while Belga shot 17, helping the E-Painters stay afloat in the face of the Road Warriors’ late rally.
Belga’s hook shot put ROS ahead, 83-79, but a long triple by Kiefer Ravena made it a one-point game and turnover by Gabe Norwood gave NLEX a chance to steal it with still 10 seconds left.
However, Tony Semerad missed the potential game-winner, allowing Gavina to notch his first win since taking over the ROS coaching position last March.
“I’m truly blessed to be in this position to help the team as we aim for greater heights,” said Gavina, who was assistant to Caloy Garcia last season and previously coach of Kia.
The E-Painters spoiled the 23-point, seven-assist performance of Ravena, who was all business amid his controversial plan to play in the Japanese B.League.
In the first game, Mike Digregorio sparked the second-half explosion as Alaska romped off with a 103-77 rout of Blackwater Bossing.
Digregorio rifled in 17 of his 20 after intermission as the Aces broke away from a 39-39 standoff and posted the most lopsided season-opening game win since Mobiline walloped Tanduay (90-64) in the 1999 All-Filipino.
“Without tuneup games, you don’t really know how good or bad you are so my challenge to the team was to share the ball on offense and defend the best we can,” said Alaska mentor Jeff Cariaso.
“Luckily, Mike stepped up and the guys really followed the simple game plan we had so we’re happy for the first win,” he added.
It was also Alaska’s first time to start the season victorious in the last five years.
Digregorio spearheaded an 18-4 exchange that ripped the game apart, 65-47, late in the third. The Bossing threatened to within six at 76-70 but the Fil-Italian guard led a furious counter-attack to make it 95-75.
Yousef Taha, Alaska’s free agent pickup, banged in 16 markers and grabbed seven rebounds while Abu Tratter posted 13 and 6 in the victory.
Simon Enciso fired a game-high 23 for his new team Blackwater, making 19 in the first 20 minutes.
Notes: Magnolia and Terrafirma agreed to a trade ahead of the opening action. The Hotshots acquired forward Russel Escoto from the Dyip in exchange for their second-round draft pick in the Season 48 Rookie Draft…After practicing out-of-town, the PBA teams can now return to their usual gyms in the NCR, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) notified the PBA Friday.
Alaska 103 – Digregorio 20, Taha 16, Tratter 13, Banal 8, Ilagan 8, Herndon 7, Teng 7, Adamos 7, Brondial 6, Casio 5, Ahanmisi 2, Browne 0, Ebona 0, Publico 0.
Blackwater 77 – Enciso 23, Tolomia 15, Daquioag 12, Canaleta 7, Magat 6, Nabong 6, Amer 4, Desiderio 2, Semerad 2, Escoto 0, Paras 0, Dennison 0.
Quarterscores: 16-15, 39-39, 71-57, 103-77.
Rain or Shine 83 – Nambatac 19, Belga 17, Mocon 12, Ponferada 10, Norwood 8, Asistio 6, Torres 5, Santillan 4, Borboran 2, Guinto 0, Wong 0, Caracut 0.
NLEX 82 – Ravena 23, Alas 13, Trollano 11, Cruz 10, Soyud 6, Semerad 6, Miranda 5, Quinahan 5, Porter 2, Oftana 1, Paniamogan 0.
Quarterscores: 26-26, 38-43, 69-63, 83-82.
Meralco 85 – Belo 27, Maliksi 14, Quinto 8, Hodge 6, Pasaol 5, Black 4, Jose 4, Newsome 4, Jackson 3, Pinto 3. Hugnatan 3, Caram 2, Jamito 2, Canete 0, Almazan 0.
NorthPort 63 – Onwubere 13, Bolick 11, Malonzo 9, Ferrer 9, Anthony 6, Lanete 3, Rike 3, Taha 2, Balanza 2, Elorde 2, Grey 2, Faundo 1, Subido 0, Doliguez 0.
Quarterscores: 18-9, 36-29, 60-41, 85-63.