ALEX Stepheson led those who made sure Bobby Ray Parks Jr. gets the desired result in his PBA debut.
Stepheson scored 21 points and hauled down 31 rebounds as the Elite squeaked past the Meralco Bolts 94-91 in overtime Sunday at the start of the Commissioner's Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Parks did his part with 20 points on top of eight rebounds. But the No. 2 pick overall in last December's rookie draft, who had to finish his commitments with Alab Pilipinas in the ABL before coming over, shot 6-for-19 from the field and also committed eight turnovers,
Good thing the likes of Mike Digregorio and Mac Belo were also there to help Blackwater along and start off their campaign under new interim head coach Aris Dimaunahan on a bright note.
Digregorio laced his own 21-point production with two free throws that made it a 93-89 game, seconds after Belo scored on a putback that freed Blackwater up from the game's last deadlock at 89-all.
Gani Lawal notched a game-high 34 points and 21 rebounds, but he was the lone bright spot for a Meralco squad that got off to a flying start and even led by 11 early, but started fading in the face of unrelenting pressure from Blackwater.
Actually, it was only Lawal who scored all of the Bolts' six points in the extension, with his followup pulling them within 91-93, still 11.1 ticks left.
After Parks' charity made it a three-point game, Meralco had the chance to again tie the game, but Blackwater's defense denied all the other Bolts shooters, forcing Lawal to heave a three-point try that was off the mark just before the final buzzer.
Reliever Mike Tolomia was the only other Meralco player in double figures with 11.
Raymond Almazan and Jared Dillinger could have helped the Bolts. But the center acquired in a trade with Rain or Shine last week sat out the game due to a nagging calf injury and Dillinger also has to fully recover from a quad injury.
Trevis Jackson could have won it outright for the Bolts after Lawal banked in a shot that knotted the count at 85-all and Stepheson muffed two charities. But Jackson missed a wide open elbow jumper.
Allein Maliksi helped along Blackwater's cause with 12 points.
Stepheson fully set the tone for the Elite in OT with his emphatic followup dunk, followed by another jam off a nifty feed by Maliksi that made it 89-87.
Parks stood out the most in the third quarter where he scattered 10 of his points and his free throw gave Blackwater an 85-83 edge in the fourth period. (NC)
Blackwater 94 - Digregorio 21, Stepheson 21, Parks 20, Maliksi 12, Belo 6, Sena 4, Sumang 4, Dario 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Alolino 1, Javier 0, Tratter 0, Cortez 0,
Meralco 91 - Lawal 34, Tolomia 11, Jackson 8, Pinto 7, Newsome 5, Salva 5, Hodge 4, Hugnatan 4, Amer 4, De Ocampo 4, Canaleta 3, Caram 2, Espinas 0, Quinto 0.
Quarterscores: 17-19, 37-42, 64-63, 85-85, 94-91.