GENERATING power from KJ McDaniels, Meralco started its redemption tour in the PBA Governors' Cup with a 105-87 rout of Rain or Shine Sunday at the PhilSports Arena.
McDaniels turned in a monster game of 27 points - including 17 in the second-half breakaway - and 23 rebounds - a new PBA personal high - to power the Bolts to a rousing start in the season-ending tournament.
"It's a big confidence booster for us moving forward," said McDaniels, who is determined to lead Meralco back to the playoffs after falling short as a substitute reinforcement in the preceding 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)."
It was an evenly-fought matchup in the first 24 minutes before McDaniels and the Bolts unleashed a 51-33 salvo coming off the break to rip it open.
With McDaniels as anchor, Meralco totally outrebounded ROS, 64-43, getting 24 second-chance points off it.
"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 Black.
Chris Newsome returned to active duty after four months on sick bay due to calf injury. He contributed 10 points, five rebounds and six assists to complement the solid outings of Chris Banchero (17), Allein Maliksi (16) and Bong Quinto (11).
"He's our most productive player scoring, assisting and rebounding in his position," said Black of Newsome, whose absence last conference hastened the doom of Meralco, which reeled to 10th place, its worst finish since placing 11th in the 2019 Philippine Cup.
"We needed him to play extra minutes tonight since Aaron (Black) was out (knee contusion) and CB (Banchero) was cramping up. So he came in and did a great job of holding the fort and controlling our offense. It's a relief to have him back," said Black.
Rey Nambatac (23) and returning veteran James Yap (14) showed the way for ROS as import Michael Qualls finished with 14 - a far cry from his 53 in a recent tuneup game versus Meralco.
"That was a blessing in disguise. We had a chance to watch him (Qualls) and prepare the defense against him," said Black.
The Bolts held Qualls to a woeful 3-of-22 field goal shooting. (OL)
Meralco 105 - McDaniels 27, Banchero 17, Maliksi 16, Quinto 11, Newsome 10, Hodge 8, Almazan 6, Pasaol 5, Johnson 3, Jose 2, Rios 0, Pascual 0.
Rain or Shine 87 - Nambatac 21, Qualls 14, Yap 14, Mamuyac 10, Asistio 10, Norwood 5, Nieto 3, Ponferrada 2, Clarito 2, Torres 2, Demusis 2, Belga 2, Caracut 0, Borboran 0.
Quarterscores: 22-24, 54-54, 81-68, 105-87.