Michael DiGregorio showed why he was a prized catch of the Blackwater Elite after firing a career-high 22 points in the 104-98 victory over the NLEX Road Warriors last night in the resumption of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
DiGregorio scored 12 points in the third quarter as Blackwater turned a 49-42 halftime lead into a commanding 86-68 advantage going into the fourth that gave the Elite their second win in eight games in the midseason tournament.
The relative of former NBA player Ernie DiGregorio displayed his knack for hitting the three-point shot, going 4-of-6 from that distance to provide the compliment role for KG Canaleta and import Greg Smith.
Mahindra coach Leo Isaac was quick to praise DiGregorio, who was curiously left as a free agent by the Mahindra Floodbuster after the PBA Philippine Cup before finding a home with the Elite.
And DiGregorio is certainly making Mahindra pay for its decision. He is averaging 10 points per game in the eliminations before producing this career game.
“He’s found his place on our team,” said Blackwater coach Leo Isaac. “He’s becoming the player we want him to be.”
Smith led Blackwater with 24 points an 18 rebounds, while Canaleta – traded to Blackwater from GlobalPort earlier this conference – also collected 24 points as he fired five triples on 11 attempts.
Their big games allowed the Elite to snap a two-game skid to revive their slim playoff hopes.
“Going into this game, I told the players to just give ourselves a good chance of making it to the quarterfinal round especially against NLEX and on Sunday against Mahindra,” said Isaac.
“We are just prepping ourselves to be in a position, to be in a situation where we can enjoy the games against San Miguel Beer and Ginebra going to the final two games of our stint this conference,” he added.
After playing the Floodbuster on Sunday, the Elite will face the league leader Beermen on Sunday and the crowd favorite Kings on May 26 for their final elimination round game.
NLEX remained as the only team without a victory this conference, dropping to 0-8. It was the Road Warriors’ 12th consecutive defeat dating back to last conference.
Guard Kevin Alas led the Road Warriors with 18 points off the bench, while center Rabah Al-Hussaini had 17 points.
Carlo Lastimosa and Asi Taulava added 10 points apiece for NLEX.
BLACKWATER 104 – Smith 24, Canaleta 24, Digregorio 22, Cruz 9, Pinto 7, Pascual 6, Cervantes 4, Aguilar 4, Sena 2, Gamalinda 2, Sumang 0, Buenafe 0.
NLEX 98 – Alas 18, Al-Hussaini 17, Lastimosa 10, Taulava 10, Anthony 9, Chism 9, Khobuntin 8, Camson 5, Villanueva J. 4, Monfort 4, Soyud 3, Rios 1, Tiongson 0, Guinto 0, Baracael 0.
Quarters: 28-17; 49-42; 86-68; 104-98.