MERALCO survived Columbian Dyip’s gritty challenge in the fourth period to pull off a 101-92 win in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Import Gani Lawal cut loose with 25 points and 27 big rebounds in a yeoman job complemented well by four locals — Baser Amer, Trevis Jackson, Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge – as the Bolts rebounded from last May 19’s 94-91 overtime loss to Blackwater.
Lawal was also there when the game was on the line, sinking a basket that gave the Bolts a 94-86 lead with 3:39 left after the Dyip came threateningly close to 92-86 on JP Calvo’s basket.
The Dyip, who tumbled to their second straight loss, were still within six points entering the last 1:34 of the game (96-89), but a putback by Hodge, a freethrow by Lawal and two more charities from Amer sealed the win for the Bolts.
Amer, easily the smallest man on court, was ironically the brightest among the Meralco locals, coming away with 21 points, including that two freethrows which gave the Bolts a 101-91 lead, 17 seconds remaining.
Jackson finished with 17 points and four assists, Newsome added 12 points and four assists while Hodge pumped in 10 points.
Getting rebounds every game was a major concern for the Bolts in the past because of their seeming lack of tall center – something that became the team’s main consideration in taking Raymond Almazan.
The Bolts continued to miss Almazan but nevertheless outrebounded the Dyip, 63-47, with Lawal cornering 27 of them in a sheer show of excellent skills in that department.
Lawal struck 11 straight points early in the second period to give the Bolts a 36-25 lead. The Dyip fought back behind Barone and CJ Perez to narrow the gap at 38-33, but the Lawal, Trevis Jackson, Baser Amer and Mike Tolomia sank a basket each as the Bolts hit the turn with a 50-35 lead.
Meanwhile, NorthPort and Talk ‘N Text gun for follow-ups to their last Wednesday’s victories as they play separate rivals today in a pair of Petron Saturday Specials also at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Batang Pier take on NLEX in the first tussle at 4:30 p.m. while the KaTropa clash with the Alaska Aces in the main offering at 6:45 p.m.
Meralco 101 - Lawal 25, Amer 21, Jackson 17, Newsome 12, Hodge 10, Hugnatan 5, Tolomia 4, Pinto 3, De Ocampo 2, Salva 2, Faundo 0, Caram 0, Jamito 0, Quinto 0.
Columbian 92 - Barone 26, Perez 22, McCarthy 13, Cahilig 11, Corpuz 11, Khobuntin 3, Agovida 3, Reyes 2, Calvo 1, Faundo 0, Camson 0, Celda 0, Escoto 0, Tabi 0.
Quarterscores: 23-18, 50-35, 79-71, 101-92.