Gani Lawal, Baser Amer carry Meralco past Columbian

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Meralco import Gani Lawal. PBA IMAGES

MANILA, Philippines–Meralco scored in bunches early and used that cushion to hold off hard-fighting Columbian, 101-92, Friday night in the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Bolts went for eight unanswered points to start the game and kept on building on that groove en route to tabbing their first win in the conference.

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“It’s always good to get that first win under your belt. We lost a really tough game last time out,” Meralco coach Norman Black said. “[Tonight] we did a lot better offensively and defensively.”

Import Gani Lawal had 25 points and 27 rebounds—both team bests—to help Meralco recover from a conference-opening loss to a young Blackwater side last weekend.

“I think our team worked on our offense. Everybody’s sharing the basketball and everybody’s being a part of the offense—that really helped us in this game. And that’s what we look to continue for our remaining games—which is to spread the wealth, so to say,” Black added.

The rest of the Bolts’ starters tossed in 10 or more, with Baser Amer registering 21 to lead the locals.

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“My locals played very, very well today especially my guards. All three starting guards played well. Good team victory for us today. It’s something we could build on,” Black added.

Columbian drew 26 points from import Kyle Barone and 22 from star rookie CJ Perez. Three more added in twin digits in a bid to pull the rug from under Meralco.

But that attempt didn’t meet its fruition as Amer emptied eight of his total points in the final frame to help the Bolts move on.

Meralco continued to miss newly-acquired Raymond Almazan, who is still recovering from a left ankle sprain.

“Maybe another two games at least before he comes back,” Black said of his big man.

Meralco moves on to face crowd-darling Barangay Ginebra this Sunday again at the Big Dome in a bid to get some streak going.

“It’s going be interesting,” Black said when asked about Justin Brownlee, the Gin Kings’ returning import who denied them a chance at a title twice in the past.

“It’s going to be a big test for us. We’ll try to prepare our best game plan and see what happens Sunday.”

The scores:

Meralco 101 – Lawal 25, Amer 21, Jackson 17, Newsome 12, Hodge 10, Hugnatan 5, Tolomia 4, Pinto 3, De Ocampo 2, Salva 2, Faundo 0, Caram 0, Jamito 0, Quinto 0.

Columbian 92 – Barone 26, Perez 22, McCarthy 13, Cahilig 11, Corpuz 11, Khobuntin 3, Agovida 3, Reyes 2, Calvo 1, Faundo 0, Camson 0, Celda 0, Escoto 0, Tabi 0.

Quarterscores: 23-18, 50-35, 79-71, 101-92.

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