MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE) Ray Parks Jr. got a winning start to his PBA career as Blackwater Elite held off the Meralco Bolts, 94-91, in overtime to open their campaign in the Commissioner's Cup on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Parks split his free throws with 9.1 seconds left to give the Elite the three-point cushion, and Meralco import Gani Lawal bricked his three-point attempt at the buzzer, allowing Blackwater to escape.
The second overall pick in the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft finished with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists, though he was also responsible for 8 of Blackwater's 25 turnovers. Import Alex Stepheson had 21 points and 31 rebounds in the contest.
"I'm just happy that the players stuck together," said Blackwater coach Aris Dimaunahan. "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."
"I'm proud of them for making those stops in the end game, and they didn't fold," he added.
In a back-and-forth game, Blackwater seized an 84-80 advantage off a Mac Belo tip-in with 2:30 left, before a split at the line by Ranidel de Ocampo and a transition bucket by Lawal made it a one-point game, 84-83, with 1:14 left.
Parks split his charities to give his team a two-point cushion, 85-83, before Lawal again banked in a jumper to tie the game with 45.8 seconds left. Stepheson had a chance to push the Elite ahead once more with 25 seconds to go, but he muffed both charities.
Meralco, too, had a chance to win in regulation, but Trevis Jackson hesitated on a potential go-ahead jump shot in the final possession and bricked his shot.
Stepheson and Lawal exchanged buckets to open the overtime period, with Lawal knotting the count at 89 with under a minute left. It was Belo who put Blackwater ahead for good, leaping over everyone for an offensive rebound then scoring a lay-up for a 91-89 score with 32.4 seconds to go.
Mike DiGregorio made 2 free throws to make it a four-point game, but Lawal gave Meralco a fighting chance with a bucket that made it a one-possession game. Parks' split at the line left the door open for the Bolts, but Lawal was unable to convert at the buzzer.
"Ray brings a lot of things to the table," Dimaunahan said of his rookie. "His leadership was shown here, he can make passes, he can make shots, he can defend. I'm happy for him, and we all welcome him here in the PBA."
DiGregorio had 21 points, while Allein Maliksi added 12 markers for the Elite.
Lawal had 34 points and 21 rebounds for the Bolts, while Mike Tolomia was the only other Meralco player in double-digits with 11 points.
Blackwater 94 - Digregorio 21, Stepheson 21, Parks 20, Maliksi 12, Belo 6, Sena 4, Sumang 4, Dario 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Alolino 1, Javier 0, Tratter 0, Cortez 0,
Meralco 91 - Lawal 34, Tolomia 11, Jackson 8, Pinto 7, Newsome 5, Salva 5, Hodge 4, Hugnatan 4, Amer 4, De Ocampo 4, Canaleta 3, Caram 2, Espinas 0, Quinto 0.
Quarterscores: 17-19, 37-42, 64-63, 85-85, 94-91.
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