25 March 2017

Bolts 94, KaTropa 89

Alex Stepheson
Defense has always been the key for the Meralco Bolts and for the third straight game, they held their opponent below 90 points and came through with the win.

The defense-oriented Bolts imposed their game on TNT and import Louis Amundson, carving out a third consecutive victory with a 94-89 drubbing of the KaTropa in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last 24 March.

"(Playing tough defense) seemed to be the key. That’s what we're trying to focus on because we don’t have a team that can score 100 points a night. So it's really important for us to defend," said Meralco coach Norman Black.

Offensively, the Bolts put enough points to stretch a winning streak that started with a 94-86 topping of the Mahindra Floodbuster on the tournament opener followed by a 91-84 repulsing of the NLEX Road Warriors Sunday.

Alex Stepheson, Baser Amer, Jared Dillinger, Chris Newsome and Reynel Hugnatan led the efficient Meralco effort that sent the Ka Tropa down on their knees in their first game in the mid-season conference.

Amundson, rookie Roger Pogoy and Ryan Reyes top scored for the Ka Tropa as coach Nash Racela let Jayson Castro to continue to rest. Castro missed their do-or-die showdown with Barangay Ginebra in the Philippine Cup semifinals due to a hamstring pull.

Amundson, a 10-year NBA veteran, debuted in the local pro league with 19 points and 18 rebounds.

He plays another game with the Ka Tropa versus the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Sunday, then he's likely to be replaced by former Sacramento King Donte Greene who flew in Thursday. TNT is still in the process of working Greene's papers.

Stepheson proved to be a more dominant force, producing 27 rebounds and 20 points in another monstrous double-double game.

"A big part of our defense is Alex. He's really dominant in getting the rebounds and in defending the lane. That’s what we needed from him. That's the reason why we recruited him," said Black.

"It’s quite different now (from the Philippine Cup) because we have a man in the middle. Our local guys are confident we can compete with any team because of him," Black added.

The Ka Tropa actually stayed right behind the Bolts, trailing just by three at 82-85 entering the homestretch.

But they shot themselves on the foot with their atrocious 8-of-21 free throws.

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