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Meralco Bolts shock League with powerful start

THE Meralco Bolts have shocked the Philippine Basketball Association with their powerful start this 2016 Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup.

Proving how almost evenly-matched the teams in the Philippine Basketball Association are, the Bolts (3 wins, 0 loss) have jumped to the top of the standings just by adding one player in import Arinze Onuaku.

The Phoenix Petroleum Fuel Masters (1-0) trail the Bolts. The other teams include the Blackwater Elite (2-1), the GlobalPort Batang Pier (2-1), the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters (1-1), the NLEX Road Warriors (1-1) and the Mahindra Enforcers (1-1).

The rest of the teams include the Mahindra Enforcers (1-1), the Talk N Text Tropang Texters (1-2), the Alaska Aces (0-1), the Star Hotshots (0-2) and the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (0-2). The San Miguel Beermen have not yet played a game.

Meralco Bolts swingman Jared Dillinger (20) sticks out his tongue while attempting a jumpshot over the blocking hands of Talk N Text Tropang Texters defender Matt Rosser (22).

The Meralco Bolts equalled their first conference win total right in their first game with a victory over the Star Hotshots who ironically were the only team they beat last conference.

The Bolts, which finished at the bottom last conference, leaned on last-minute replacement import Onuaku to propel them to victory.

Onuaku arrived less than 48 hours before the game. Somehow he still scored 25 points, grabbed 22 rebounds and had three assists.

The big difference for Meralco was the contribution of the local players. Rookie Chris Newsome finished with 16 points, including 11 in the fourth period. Cliff Hodge tallied 12 markers and grabbed seven rebounds.

“I give credit to my local players who worked hard in the offseason to erase what happened last conference. Everybody was focused on trying to get a good start this conference,” said Meralco Bolts coach Norman Black.

The Bolts showed their early victories were no flukes when they beat last year’s Commissioner’s Cup finalists Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-95, to grab the solo lead.

Meralco Bolts import Arinze Onuaku (left) muscles his way past Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters defender Jewel Ponferada.

The win needed some doing though. The Bolts saw an early 26-point advantage evaporate but leaned on Onuaku at crunch time to bail them out of trouble. Onuaku had 31 points and 27 boards as the Bolts extended their unbeaten run.

Meralco had to scramble against a tough Elasto Painters squad who missed import Wayne Chism most of the second half. 

“To be quite honest, after coming off a one-ten (win-loss) conference, I’ll take any victory I can get. A win is a win,” said Black.

The Bolts handed the Elasto Painters their first loss after starting the conference with a win over Star.

Four days before the start of the conference the Bolts had to replace original import Malcolm Thomas, who suffered a knee injury.

Fortnately, Onuaku was available. He was obviously not at his physical best. But he had enough to lead the Bolts to victory.

“He showed leadership for us, covered a lot of our weaknesses as far as rebounding and interior defense, and he made the big shot down the stretch to win the game,” said Black.

The best trait exhibited by Onuaku was his adaptability. He had no idea what the offensive and defensive sets of the Bolts. Somehow, with a lot of help from his teammates, he was able to muddle through.

The Bolts feared another trip to the bottom of the standings after the horrendous bad luck of having their import injured. It is proving to be a blessing in disguise as replacement import Onuaku has helped the Bolts to the top of the standings to the shock of the rest of the league. 

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