Mac Belo sank a tough go-ahead putback with 32.4 seconds left to help lift Blackwater to a hard-fought 94-91 victory over Meralco in an overtime thriller to get itself in the winning column right away in the opening game of the 2019 Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City yesterday.
Alex Stepheson reintroduced himself well to the league, dropping a monster double-double with team-highs of 21 points and 31 huge rebounds to backstop the Elite against his former team.
“I was able to settle down in the second half and get to work,” said Stepheson of his performance. “Our coaches told me to relax as I was at first excited to face my former team and it worked.”
Belo broke the deadlock after a gritty undergoal stab off an Allein Maliksi miss made it 87-85 for Blackwater.
After Meralco import Gani Lawal travelled, Mike DiGregorio hit two more free throws with 17.7 ticks left to stretch the Elite’s lead to 89-85.
Still in as they were only down 91-94 with ball in hand in the final seconds, the Bolts went to Lawal but his potential-tying triple was off, enabling Blackwater to escape.
Lawal’s banked shot with 45.8 seconds remaining in regulation forced overtime.
Trevis Jackson had the chance to win it for Meralco in the dying seconds of the fourth but his wide open jumper failed to find its mark.
Bobby Ray Parks finally made his much-awaited PBA debut.
The No. 2 overall pick finally suited up for the Elite, registering 20 points and eight rebounds in his first game as a pro, while DiGregorio added 21 more points for Blackwater.
Parks wasn’t the only one who made his debut for the Elite as Aris Dimaunahan handled his first game as the team’s interim coach.
Dimaunahan took the place of then coach Bong Ramos early in the team’s off-season.
After getting traded several days ago, versatile big Raymund Almazan was still unable to suit up for the Bolts as he is still yet to complete his medicals.
Lawal led Meralco in the losing cause with a game-high 34 markers and 21 boards for his own solid game.
- 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,
- 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.
17-19, 37-42, 64-63, 85-85, 94-91.