Meralco got off to a hot start, sputtered in the middle, then restored order to hammer out a 93-81 win over Alaska in the PBA Philippine Cup at the AUF Gym in Angeles, Pampanga.
With the Bolts sharing the ball well, points came from almost everyone from the team.
Allein Maliksi led the balanced scoring with 17 points, Baser Amer had 15 points, while Reynel Hugnatan and Cliff Hodge had 13 and 11, respectively. All 11 Bolts who saw action scored.
It was an improvement from the team's opening game debacle. The Bolts had 22 assists this time and exploited the paint early on with Hugnatan, Hodge, and Raymar Jose attacking the basket aggressively.
As a result, the team nabbed its first victory after the loss to Phoenix in the opener.
"I think we trusted more the system of Coach Norman Black," said Maliksi during the walk-off interview. "We calmed down. We were a little too excited during our first game because we were not able to play ball in a long time."
Maliksi let his game come to him. He was 6-of-9 from the field or 66 percent while taking only two shots from beyond the arc. No player wearing orange shirts was forcing shots.
"I just need to be patient on offense and let the game come to me. That's the advice the coaches gave to me and it worked," Maliksi said.
The Bolts were ahead the entire game, with the Aces only giving them a scare early in the third period. With main man Vic Manuel and Mike DiGregorio struggling mightily to find their touch, Jeron Teng carried most of the load and spearheaded a 12-0 run to start the third and erase a 14-point deficit.
With 4:58 remaining, DiGregorio scored on a three-point play to tie things up at 52-all. Meralco, though, was quick to regain control. A couple of baskets from Aaron Black including a booming trey put coal to Meralco's steam engine and it was all Bolts from there.
Teng finished with 25 points for the Aces, who remained winless after two games in the Clark bubble.
Vic Manuel had 18 points, but was a dismal 8-of-21 from the field. Robbie Herndon added 8 points.
Meralco 93- Amer 15, Maliksi 17, Hugnatan 13, Hodge 11, Black 8, Jose 6, Newsome 6, Quinto 5, Almazan 5, Pinto 5, Faundo 2
Alaska 81- Teng 25, Manuel 18, Herndon 8, Publico 8, Tratter 6, DiGregorio 6, Brondial 5, Galliguez 3, Ayaay 2, Andrada 0, Casio 0, Ebona 0
Quarterscores: 29-23, 49-35, 65-58, 93-81
Raymond Almazan, sporting a new hairstyle, finally saw action for Meralco for the first time in the bubble. He scored his first points - a three-point play - at the 1:53 mark of the opening quarter and finished with 5 points and 5 rebounds in 9:37 of playing time.
Alaska rookie Rey Publico had a decent PBA debut, scoring 8 points and grabbing a rebound in his first game.
Mike DiGregorio was off target. He wound up with a disappointing 6 points on 1-of-11 shooting.
Meralco vs. Ginebra, Oct. 18
Alaska vs. Magnolia, Oct. 17