Jan 25, 2023

Bolts eye 2-0 conference start, Batang Pier seek bounceback

MERALCO eyes a 2-0 head start in the PBA Governors Cup, seeking a follow-up on a rousing 105-87 romp over Rain or Shine Sunday as the Bolts tangle with the NorthPort Batang Pier in the initial season-ender Thursday bill at the PhilSports Arena.

The Bolts are on a high coming from their 18-point rout of the Elasto Painters while the Batang Pier are looking to pick up the pieces of a shattering loss to the Converge FiberXers, 122-92.

It's certainly not the way the Batang Pier wanted to welcome new coach Boni Tan, but they struggled badly minus injury-hit main men Robert Bolick and Arwind Santos.

"Maraming adjustments. New system. Adjust ang players sa akin, adjust din ako sa kanila," said Tan, formerly the NorthPort team manager tasked to shift posts with former coach Pido Jarencio after the former's third straight title run with the Letran Knights in the NCAA.

There's also the period of adjustment with their import Marcus Weathers.

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It's something done for the Bolts and KJ McDaniels in their campaign in the Commissioner's Cup.

"Even though we didn't finish the way we wanted to last time, we have a chance to restart, come back with the right frame of mind (this conference)," said McDaniels, hopeful of a turnaround from their 10th-place windup in the last conference.

Also with a boost from the returning Chris Newsome, the Bolts showed great promise in their triumphant Governors Cup debut marked by a 27-point, 23-rebound job from McDaniels.

"Rebounding will have to be a very big part of our game. That's why we brought KJ back. He can play inside out and he can get rebounds for us and we need him because we're not a very big team. It worked out for us against Rain or Shine," said coach Norman Black.

Chris Newsome returned from a four-month absence due to calf injury and contributed 10 points, five rebounds and six assists to complement the solid outings of Chris Banchero (17), Allein Maliksi (16) and Bong Quinto (11).

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"He's our most productive player scoring, assisting and rebounding in his position," said Black of Newsome.

Meanwhile, Weathers' 37 rebounds and 12 assists proved not enough to carry the Batang Pier against a Converge team with a well-balanced offense.

Maverick Ahanmisi turned in a career-high 29 with six boards and nine dimes while Kiwi import Ethan Rusbatch had 17-9 as the FiberXers spoiled Tan's PBA heaven-coaching debut. (SB)