THE MERALCO BOLTS notched their first victory in the PBA Philippine Cup, defeating the Alaska Aces, 93-81, in the league’s opening game on Wednesday at the Angeles University Foundation gym in Pampanga.
Allein Maliksi led the way for Meralco, which with the win bounced back from its Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) “bubble” debut loss on Monday while sending Alaska to its second straight defeat.
The Bolts had steady control in the opening half, helped by better shooting than the Aces (51% versus 33%) and balanced scoring.
They held a 29-23 lead at the end of the first quarter then padded it some more to a double-digit advantage, 49-35, by the break.
Sensing they lost much ground in the opening half, Alaska came out more aggressive in the third quarter.
Forward Jeron Teng spearheaded a 17-3 run in the first eight minutes of the canto to level the score at 52-all.
The Bolts, however, were able to survive the onslaught and continued to lead, 65-58, with one quarter left to play.
Rocked in the previous quarter, Meralco began the final canto with a 12-4 blast to get itself more breathing space, 77-62, by the 8:39 mark.
The Aces tried to fight their way back after but with little success.
Meralco still commanded a 91-75 lead with three minutes remaining and held for the win from there.
Mr. Maliksi finished with 17 points for the Bolts (1-1) with guard Baser Amer adding 15 points.
Veteran Reynel Hugnatan finished with 13 points to go along with eight boards while Cliff Hodge had 11 markers.
For Alaska (0-2), it was Mr. Teng who top-scored with a game-high 25 points. He also had seven rebounds.
Vic Manuel was the only other Alaska player who scored in double digits with 18 points.
Wednesday marked the fourth day of the league in the bubble in Clark City which is aimed at completing at least one conference in its pandemic-hit season.
Under the bubble, the teams and the rest of the PBA contingent are holed up in the area for the duration of the tournament.
Meanwhile, games on Thursday will have the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters (1-0) taking on the Northport Batang Pier (0-1) at 4 p.m. to be followed by the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings (1-0) colliding with the Blackwater Elite (1-0) at 6:45 p.m.
In another development, those who want to experience being part of the PBA virtual fan wall may do so beginning Thursday.
The virtual wall, similar to that used in the National Basketball Association during their own tournament bubble, gives the fans a chance to cheer for their favorite teams from the comforts of their homes and see themselves on the LED screens at the AUF Gym and on television.
Links for the virtual wall will be posted on the PBA’s social media platforms with slots offered on a first-come, first-served basis. – Michael Angelo S. Murillo