25 August 2016

Bolts 101, NLEX 95

Chris Newsome
The Meralco Bolts continue to perform beyond expectation after it clipped sister squad NLEX Road Warriors by hacking out a 101-95 victory last 24 August in the PBA Governors' Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Allen Durham scattered 31 points, but his less heralded teammates shared the limelight after helping the Bolts get their fifth win in eight games to strengthen their chances for the top four slots.

Baser Amer, on-court in the stretch due to an injury to Jimmy Alapag, Jared Dillinger and Cliff Hodge shone when it mattered as the Bolts racked up their third straight win and fourth in five games.

"This was a really good team effort today," said Black. "Durham is probably the best all-around player to get in the game, but I felt we got a lot of contributions from a lot of people and we showed we're really a team in this game."

Alapag sat it out due to an ankle injury but Amer rose to the occasion by stringing up seven straight points, almost single-handedly pulling Meralco away from a 90-88 edge and into a 97-90 lead.

Dillinger then converted Hodge's block on Henry Walker into a charity, making it a safe eight-point game, 20.5 seconds to go.

The loss cut short NLEX’s two-game winning skein and put it at seventh overall, dangerously on the brink of being left out of the top eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals following the 11-game eliminations.

Despite foul trouble that forced him to the bench for a four-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, Walker still wound up with a gamehigh 38 points on top of nine rebounds and five assists.

Sorely missed by NLEX is Jonas Villanueva, the top local scorer with almost 11 points game who suited up but did not see action to rest a sprain.

Sadly for the Road Warriors, only Sean Anthony, Emman Monfort and Asi Taulava managed to give significant contributions with at least 10 points each.

In contrast, Hodge, Dillinger, Chris Newsome, Kelly Nabong and Bryan Faundo wound up with at least 10 points each for Black. Hodge added six boards and four blocks, Newsome and Amer had seven assists apiece with the former also stealing the ball a career-high six times.

"We needed all of those just to get a win against NLEX today. It was a really hard-fought game," said Black.

The Bolts also won the battle off the boards 44-39, to Black’s satisfaction. "We wanted to win the rebounding battle because that’s something NLEX’s been doing throughout the conference," he said. "They're a very good offensive rebounding team.

The game indeed saw neither team leading more than nine points with Walker pegging the third and last deadlock at 84-all, still 3:28 left.

That was when Meralco really shifted to high gear with Nabong draining a baseline jumper and Hodge scoring on a putback slam off a Newsome swipe.

Walker's freebie brought NLEX within 85-88, but Amer rose to the challenge with a pair of charities, followed by a corner triple off a Durham find and a mid-range jumper.

"All the credit goes to my players for their teamwork, both offensively and defensively. They displayed a lot of teamwork tonight," said Black after his charges finished with 26 assists.

Costing NLEX dearly are its 24 turnovers from which Meralco drew 31 points.

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