Games Wednesday (Ynares, Antipolo)
4:15 p.m. – ROS vs Mahindra
7 p.m. – Phoenix vs San Miguel
Nothing like a pair of Tamaraws to spark a stampede.
Far Eastern U veteran Denok Miranda and recent Tamaraw sensation Mac Belo locked horns to hand Blackwater a franchise best 2-0 start last night as the Elite stunned the Meralco Bolts, 86-84, in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Belo, the No. 1 pick from the Gilas Cadet draft, had a quiet first half but turned on the heat in the next two quarters for 21 of his game-high 25 points. His 3-point play with 1:40 remaining tied the score, 84-all, and his block of Reynel Hugnatan forced a Bolts turnover and set up Miranda for the game-winner.
A generation apart from Belo in the FEU hierarchy, Miranda drove past Baser Amer with 4 seconds left and swished in a twisted shot that ignited the Blackwater bench. He missed the bonus free throw but Joseph Yeo canned a desperation 3 off a broken play, sending no less than Elite team owner Dioceldo Sy to the Meralco bench for the customary post-game handshake.
Again named best player of the game by the TV panel, Belo, Finals MVP in the UAAP last year, became only the third rookie in the last 17 years to be so chosen in their first two games after Asi Taulava and Paul Lee.
Leo Isaac, the Blackwater coach, struggled to wipe a smile off his face before he got to Norman Black, the Bolts mentor, at midcourt, something he never had to do in their previous six conferences where the Elite landed 12th and last in four of them.
“We’re still a work in progress but we were able to get the players we wanted and now we see some glitter,” said Isaac, who believes winning their first two games has a necessary downside.
“Other teams will be preparing harder against us,” he said. “Dati kasi pag nakita nila na kami ang kalaban, relax lang sila e.”
Not now with Belo around. And not with Miranda providing solid backup as the long-ago Tam finished with 11 points behind Kyle Pascual’s 13.
Rookie Jonathan Grey had 9 points and Hugnatan and Amer 6 each as Meralco took the half, 41-39, leading 33-27 at one point.
A combo-guard from St. Benilde, Grey, drafted in the first round in the regular draft, was 3 for 3 from the field in his debut, with a 3-pointer and 2 free throws. Amer hit two 3s and Hugnatan was 3 for 6 from the floor.
Blackwater was first off the blocks, taking a 5-0 lead before the Bolts got their power surging behind Amer in taking the first quarter, 27-22.
The Bolts also controlled the boards, 14-7.
Belo was held down to 4 points in the first half after debuting with 17 and 9 rebounds in a 94-87 Elite win over the Phoenix Fuel Masters.
Cliff Hodge led Meralco with 14 points while Grey and Chris Newsome each had 11. (Tito S. Talao)
BLACKWATER 86 – Belo 25, Pascual 13, Miranda 11, Dela Cruz 8, Sena 6, Pinto 5, Aguilar 5, Cervantes 5, Forrester 3, Ababou 3, Gamalinda 2, Banal 0, Buenafe 0.
MERALCO 84 – Hodge 14, Grey 11, Newsome 11, Al-Hussaini 9, Amer 8, Daquioag 6, Hugnatan 6, Yeo 5, Chua 4, Faundo 4, Nabong 4, Dillinger 2.
Quarters: 22-27; 39-41; 68-67; 86-84