Aris Dimaunahan flashed a big smile when he entered the press room at the Mall of Asia Arena. He greeted almost everyone before taking his seat for the customary post-game press conference.
Dimaunahan just passed his first test as new head coach of the Blackwater Elite, who outlasted Meralco 94-91 in overtime in the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup opener on Sunday.
It was a relief for the rookie mentor, who replaced Bong Ramos before the mid-season tourney, after winning his first game against a decorated coach in Norman Black.
"It's my first time here, i really don't know how this works," Dimaunahan told reporters before answering questions about the match.
"I'm just happy that the players stuck together. I have to give it to my players, they stuck to the game plan. Even though we're down, they stuck together and executed our offense."
Playing against his former team Meralco, Blackwater import Alex Stepheson also made a world of difference in the homestretch, scoring four points to help the Elite establish a 93-89 buffer in the final seconds.
Stepheson had a big double-double, pouring in 21 points while also grabbing game-high 31 rebounds.
His counterpart, Lawal, finished with 31 points to go with 21 rebounds and three steals.
Also making his debut was Bobby Ray Parks Jr., who had a stellar outing with 20 points eight rebounds, two assists, and three steals.
Parks, though, split his shot with 9.7 ticks remaining, giving the Bolts a chance to send the game into another extra period. Good thing Meralco import Gani Lawal's three-point attempt was off as time expired.
"I'm proud of them for making those stops in the end game, and they didn't fold. I always believe in these guys. I have to give credit to my players for defending in the end-game," Dimaunahan said.
Meralco actually had a chance to snatch the win in regulation. Trevis Jackson got a clean look but missed a jumper at the buzzer.
BLACKWATER 94 -- Stepheson 21, DiGregorio 21, Parks 20, Maliksi 12, Belo 6, Sumang 4, Sena 4, Dario 3, Al Hussaini 2, Alolino 1, Tratter 0, Cortez 0, Javier 0.
MERALCO 91 -- Lawal 34, Tolomia 11, Jackson 8, Pinto 7, Newsome 5, Salva 5, Hodge 4, Amer 4, De Ocampo 4, Hugnatan 4, Canaleta 3, Caram 2, Espinas 0, Quinto 0.
Quarterscores: 17-19, 37-42, 64-63, 85-85, 94-91.
-Parks played 41 minutes in his PBA debut.
-Hobbled by foul trouble, Baser Amer spend most of the game on the bench. He logged a little over 19 minutes and had four points.
Blackwater - vs Ginebra on May 24 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum
Meralco - vs Dyip on May 24 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum