18 March 2017

Bolts 94, Mahindra 86

Alex Stepheson Bolts
Meralco Bolts has always known that the only missing piece in their team is a formidable rim-protector. They proved this by drubbing Mahindra, 94-86, for a rousing debut in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup that got going last 17 March at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Alex Stepheson was a solid presence in the middle for the Bolts, who went full throttle from the second quarter onwards following a slow start.

Stepheson, a legit NBA veteran who had stints with the LA Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies, finished with 11 points, 21 rebounds, and three blocks in his league debut.

Amer Baser took care on the offensive end for Meralco, finishing with a team-high 19 points, including 10 in the second period when the Bolts outscored the Enforcer, 22-15, to stretch a four-point lead to 44-33 at the break.

Sophomore guard Chris Newsome finished with 17 points, while Anjo Caram added 10 for the Bolts, who came a win short of making the finals of the same tournament last season with Arinze Onuaku as their import.

"We had contributions from a lot of guys ... and we tried to recruit an import that would fill our needs in the middle," said coach Norman Black afterwards.

Stepheson seemed to fit the bill as Meralco clobbered Mahindra off the boards, 58-42.

The win put the Bolts on top of the standings right away after finishing their Philippine Cup campaign with only three wins to show in 11 games.

"It's nice to see you guys right away," quipped Black to begin his post-game interview.

Returning import James White fired 25 of his 33 points in the second half as he tried to rally Mahindra back.

But the effort fell short as Cliff Hodge, who had nine points for the Bolts, nailed two huge three-pointers down the stretch to bail the Bolts out of danger.

White also had 16 rebounds and four block shots for the Enforcer, who also drew 21 points from guard Alex Mallari.

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