MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The Meralco Bolts rebounded from a subpar first game and took down the Alaska Aces, 93-81, for their first victory in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup at the Angeles University Foundation Gym in Angeles City, Pampanga on Wednesday night.
Meralco weathered a third-quarter charge by the Aces and got big shots from Baser Amer in the fourth period to put their record at 1-1.
Alaska, meanwhile, dropped to 0-2 in the conference.
Allein Maliksi came off the bench to pour in a team-high 17 points, while Amer scored eight of his 15 points in the final quarter. The Bolts also welcomed back center Raymond Almazan, who had five points in 10 minutes of playing time.
"It's like night and day," Meralco coach Norman Black said of their effort against Alaska compared to how they played in their first game of the conference against Phoenix Super LPG.
"Tonight, we played with a lot more fluidity, we played with a lot more intensity," he explained. "Our team work was very good and we had 14 assists in the first half."
Meralco appeared headed for a comfortable win after building a 49-35 advantage at the half. They forced Alaska stalwart Vic Manuel and top gunner Mike DiGregorio into poor shooting performances, while getting huge buckets from Reynel Hugnatan.
But Jeron Teng sparked Alaska's third-quarter comeback. They scored 12 unanswered points to open the second half to make it a two-point game, with Teng drilling the three that made it 49-47 with under eight minutes left.
A three-point play by DiGregorio knotted the count at 52 with 4:28 to go, in what was his only made basket in 13 tries in the game.
Big buckets by Maliksi to open the fourth quarter allowed Meralco to pull away again, however. The veteran guard converted a floater that pushed the lead back to double digits, 71-58, with over ten minutes left.
The Bolts went on to lead by as much as 19 points, 77-58, off a Hugnatan free throw in the fourth.
Teng tried his best to will the Aces back in the contest, but the deficit proved too big and a flurry of baskets by Amer slammed the door on their comeback hopes.
"Winning this basketball game helps our confidence a lot," said Black, as Meralco is scheduled to play Barangay Ginebra and Magnolia next.
Teng finished with 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting along with seven rebounds. Manuel had 18 points, but he shot only 8-of-21 from the field, and DiGregorio managed just six points after struggling all game. Alaska, as a team, shot only 38.2%, while Meralco converted 50% of their own attempts.