Meralco 94 – Mahindra 86
It’s been more than a month since we last saw the Meralco Bolts. In the PBA Philippine Cup, they struggled in almost all of their games, as they ended their campaign on a disappointing note, finishing with a 3-8 record.
With the past behind them, they can finally say goodbye to the old conference and welcome the new one with open arms.
On Friday, the Meralco Bolts began the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup on the winning side, getting a 94-66 victory over the Mahindra Floodbuster.
“We needed it. We worked very hard in the offseason to improve our game,” Bolts head coach Norman Black said.
Meralco also introduced their new import, Alexander Stephenson, who chipped in 11 points and 21 rebounds in his debut. His work on the glass led to a 58-42 edge for the Bolts.
“I have to get Alex in time to get in shape, but his size itself gives us help in most areas,” Black said about their reinforcement. Stephenson may have struggled offensively, but it’s clear that he’s a force to be reckoned with on the glass.
With Stephenson manning the inside, other Meralco players were able to exploit the Mahindra defense. Baser Amer had a team-high 19 points on an efficient 8-for-13 shooting clip. Chris Newsome meanwhile tallied 17 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists in an all-around effort.
“The locals really stepped up tonight,” Black went on. “Baser Amer stands out on my mind right now. He has really matured between the two conferences. It seems that he has a better grasp of the PBA and it came out today.”
For Mahindra, import James White had a monster game with 33 points and 16 rebounds. Alex Mallari contributed 21 points, five boards, and seven dimes in the loss.
Meralco always finds ways to utilize their locals in the import-filled conferences of a PBA season. Their guards and wing players are versatile and athletic. Unfortunately, the same could not be said about their big men. It’s no coincidence then that an import, in this case Stephenson, can help them in all the different areas that they are lacking.
It’s only the start of the conference, but this is already a good sign for the Meralco Bolts.