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Import powers Bolts to win over F’buster

Meralco’s Chris Newsome (left) drives past Mahindra’s Alex Mallari during their PBA Commissioner’s Cup matchup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

Games today (Cuneta Astrodome)

3 p.m. – Phoenix vs Blackwater

5:15 p.m. – Alaska vs GlobalPort

MANILA, Philippines - Alex Stepheson imposed his power in the paint and his local teammates provided the fire as Meralco overcame James White’s smashing return with Mahindra Floodbuster with  a 94-86 triumph in the opener of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.

Stepheson hauled down 21 rebounds and three blocks on top of 11 points while Baser Amer and Chris Newsome delivered 19 and 17 markers, respectively, to lead a balanced attack that carried Meralco to a triumphant start after a poor 10th-place finish in the Philippine Cup.

“We really needed it. We worked hard in the offseason as we tried to improve our game,” said Meralco coach Norman Black.

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“We recruited an import to fill in our need in the middle. Alex obviously has got the size to get those defensive rebounds but we still need some time to get him in shape,” Black added.

“His teammates like him and they’re praying for him to stay. It’s important that the locals step up until we can get him in tiptop shape. If we can do that, we’ll have a chance to beat the stronger teams,” Black added.

The Bolts took control almost from start to finish, bucking White’s big double-double game with 33 points and 16 rebounds.

Alex Mallari was the lone Mahindra local who put in a double-digit output with 21 markers.

Amer rattled in 10 points, Newsome and Anjo Caram tossed in eight points apiece while Stepheson had 12 boards and six markers as the Bolts sat on a 44-33 cushion at halftime.

Jonathan Uyloan and Justin Chua pitched in at the third quarter then Cliff Hodge and Jared Dillinger joined the fray in the final canto as the Bolts completed a winning start in this tourney where they finished fourth behind Rain or Shine, Alaska Milk and San Miguel Beer last year.

James Yap, Gabe Norwood and Beau Belga teamed up to give Rain or Shine a lethal 11-2 closing flurry as they topped the NLEX Road Warriors, 113-105, to start their title defense later in the night.

Yap drained a running one-hander then a step-back trey while Norwood and Belga buried a triple each in their key run from 102-103 down in the last 2:10 of play.

The scores:

First Game

MERALCO 94 – Amer 19, Newsome 17, Stepheson 11, Caram 10, Hodge 9, Dillinger 8, Chua 8, Uyloan 6, Hugnatan 4, Nabong 2, Faundo 0, Daquioag 0.

MAHINDRA 86 – White 33, Mallari 21, Galanza 9, Celda 9, Araña 5, Salva 3, Ballesteros 2, Nimes 2, Deutchman 2, Paniamogan 0, Caperal 0, David 0, Revilla 0.

Quarterscores: 22-18, 44-33, 66-58, 94-86

Second Game

RAIN OR SHINE 113 - Yap 26, Taggart 23, Almazan 18, Chan 12, Belga 9, Norwood 7, Cruz 6, Ahanmisi 6, Tiu 4, Ponferada 2, Washington 0.

NLEX 105 – Chism 27, Lastimosa 15, Camson 14, Taulava 12, Alas 11, Lanete 8, J. Villanueva 5, Guinto 4, Soyud 3, Baracael 2, Anthony 2, Tiongson 2, Khobuntin 0, Rios 0. 

Quarterscores: 26-27, 62-52, 80-81, 113-105

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