Baser Amer scored 14 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter Friday and knocked down all four of the team's 3-pointers to lead Meralco in a rout of Alaska 101-75 at the Mall of Asia Arena. Allen Durham backed him with a near triple-double of 25 points, 15 boards and nine dimes in the win.
That third quarter proved to be the turning point for Meralco, which only led 43-37 at the half. The Bolts started the period with an 8-2 run and then repeatedly found an open Amer, who nailed three 3-pointers in an 11-2 run that put them up 62-46.
Meralco delivered the finishing kick in the payoff period, where an 18-3 start -- capped by an easy lay-in by Raymond Almazan to give the Bolts an imposing 90-64 advantage -- helped them improve to 2-1 in the standings.
"Our defense in the second half was very, very good, particularly in the third quarter. Combine that with the fact that Baser Amer got really hot from the 3-point line, and that was the reason we were able to separate in the third quarter," coach Norman Black said.
Raymond Almazan also chipped in 15 points and nine rebounds in the winning effort for the Bolts.
Stingy defense by Meralco in the second half held the still-winless Aces to 28 points in two quarters -- including a paltry 10-point output in the final frame. The Bolts' showing on that end of the floor was night and day compared to how they fared against the Road Warriors, whom they allowed to fire 15 threes against them.
"We just gotta continue to play solid defense. We always talk about Meralco being a defensive team but last game against NLEX, we did not play very good defense," Black said. "So we really wanted to focus today on trying to establish ourselves as a good defensive team, particularly on the perimeter, where we felt we let ourselves down in the last game."
Amer and the Bolts finding some rhythm from deep, where they went 9-for-22 (43.9 percent) after shooting just 30 percent in the first two games, was also pretty encouraging development for Black.
"The game always becomes easier when you can make three-point shots. You look at some of the teams that are on the top right now -- TNT, NLEX, San Miguel -- one of the reasons they're at the top is they make a lot of perimeter shots," Black said. "They make a lot of three-point shots. They don't always have to hammer it inside to be able to score. So with Baser really breaking loose today and hitting a lot of outside shots for us from the three-point range, that really opened up the game for us.
"That's really not our strength, it's something that we work on every day. We work on the gym and get as many threes as we can. So hopefully this will be a trend and others will start to pick up their 3-point shooting moving forward."
Meralco will take on Phoenix (1-3) on Sunday as the Fuel Masters look to rebound from a close loss against TNT last weekend.
"It gets tougher on Sunday. Even though Phoenix lost their last game, they played quite well against TNT. They had a chance to win the game, particularly up until the last six minutes of the game. So we're expecting a very tough game coming from them on Sunday, and a very physical game," said Black.
Meanwhile, only Chris Banchero and Simon Enciso scored in double-figures with 12 apiece for the Aces as they slumped further to 0-4 under coach Jeff Cariaso this conference. Debuting import Franko House was underwhelming and posted just eight points on 3-for-13 shooting, 11 rebounds and six dimes.
"We have to understand that if we're gonna to try and make a run this conference we have to really step on the gas. So that makes the challenge even more. So for the last eight games going into this, I gave them a challenge of us coming out 6-2. It's really just coming together a little bit more, playing better. The challenge of being consistent," said coach Jeff Cariaso.
Meralco (101) -- Amer 27, Durham 25, Almazan 15, Newsome 9, Hugnatan 5, Salva 4, Caram 4, Quinto 4, Jamito 4, Faundo 2, Pinto 2, Jackson 0, Canaleta 0, Tolomia 0.
Alaska (75) -- Banchero 12, Enciso 12, Thoss 9, Casio 9, Tratter 9, Ayaay 8, House 8, Manuel 8, Pascual 0, Galliguez 0.
Quarters: 20-22, 43-37, 72-61, 101-75.
Alaska shot just 33 percent from the field and have only breached the 40-percent mark once this conference.
House, a two-sport athlete, is the first of two imports debuting this Friday, with Kayel Locke set to show up for Rain or Shine in the second game.
Alaska hopes to gain some bodies back in the coming weeks. Cariaso said Jeron Teng, who has been nursing a hamstring injury, will be back on Oct. 13, while Maverick Ahanmisi (ankle) is about two or three weeks away. Kevin Racal will be a bit farther out due to a lower back injury.
Meralco vs Phoenix on Oct. 6 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Alaska vs. Magnolia on Oct 6. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.