MERALCO combined its generally solid game with a little luck of the draw in holding off San Miguel Beer, 93-87, Sunday and taking the early PBA Philippine Cup lead at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Aaron Black and Chris Newsome came up with timely outside shots that stoked and fueled the Bolts' endgame surge that fully boosted them over the debuting Beermen and into their second win in as many games.
Catching a powerhouse team like SMB at a time when it is not yet in full sync is enough to please Black. "As a coach, we're happy that we played them early because once they get in shape and start rolling it's gonna be very difficult to stop them," he said.
"So maybe it is to our advantage to face them this early before they can actually get into great shape and get their momentum going," added Black.
There is still no denying Meralco came up with a game worthy of a true contender when it overcame an early 11-point deficit before withstanding SMB's fightback from a 57-72 count that brought it to within 77-79, still 5:29 left.
Then the younger Black boomed in two straight triples to spark a 12-6 surge which Newsome capped with his own trey, putting the Bolts beyond reach, 91-83, only 40 ticks left.
Newsome wound up with 17 points and six assists while Black added 14 off the bench. Reynel Hugnatan and John Pinto combined for 24 points and six of Meralco's total 13 triples, six more than what the Bolts produced in an 85-63 drubbing of NorthPort on opening day last Friday.
Terrence Romeo scored 18 points to pace SMB, but he had to leave the game for good with still 8:32 left after twisting his left ankle during a crossover dribble. Prior to that the flashy guard was going great guns, scoring six points during a 12-3 spurt opening the final canto that brought SMB back to within 71-77.
The loss spoiled Arwind Santos becoming only the seventh player in league history to breach 4,000 rebounds and the return of June Mar Fajardo to official action after a shin fracture caused him to miss all of last season. In his first game back, Fajardo logged 18 minutes, five points, on 2-of-7 shooting, and five rebounds.
Mo Tautuaa had 17 points and 10 rebounds while new acquisition CJ Perez also had 17 points and six boards to lead SMB. (NC)
Meralco 93 - Newsome 17, Black 14, Hugnatan 13, Pinto 11, Quinto 7, Maliksi 7, Pasaol 7, Belo 7, Hodge 4, Almazan 4, Jackson 0.
San Miguel 87 - Romeo 18, Tautuaa 17, Perez 17, Lassiter 11, Santos 8, Ross 5, Fajardo 5, Cabagnot 4, Gotladera 2, Pessumal 0.
Quarters: 18-25; 42-41; 74-59; 93-87.