Mac Belo scored a career-high 27 points as Meralco cruised past NorthPort, 85-63, to cap off the opener of the PBA Philippine Cup Friday, July 17 at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Showing why he was a prized acquisition by a team seeking to build on last season’s semifinal run in the bubble, Belo made 11-of-18 shots while adding nine rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes as the Bolts started off the season on a bright note.
Coach Norman Black could only be pleased with Belo’s debut with the Bolts as well as getting the win despite a performance that wasn’t pretty.
“It wasn’t a smooth first game,” Black said. “Luckily, our defense held up. We played very good defense as a team and of course Mac Belo had a big game for us.”
The Bolts’ defense forced the Batang Pier to endure a rough night, making just 17-of-81 shots for the second-lowest percentage in a game ever with a 21-percent clip, only higher than the all-time mark of 20-percent (16-of-80) of the Coca-Cola Tigers against the Magnolia Beverage Masters (San Miguel Beermen) during the deciding Game 3 of the 2008 Fiesta Conference quarterfinals.
NorthPort lost despite the return of Robert Bolick after a 22-month absence due to an ACL injury in his rookie season, finishing with 11 points but went 4-of-19 from the floor.
Greg Slaughter, acquired from Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in exchange for Christian Standhardinger in early-March, was in uniform but didn’t suit up after missing a portion of the Batang Pier’s offseason preparation after being vaccinated in the United States.
Sidney Onwubere, who came in from Rain or Shine in a trade also in the offseason, topscored with 13 points in NorthPort’s defeat.
MERALCO 85 — Belo 27, Maliksi 14, Quinto 8, Hodge 6, Pasaol 5, Black 4, Jose 4, Newsome 4, Jackson 3, Pinto 3, Hugnatan 3, Caram 2, Jamito 2, Almazan 0, Canete 0.
NORTHPORT 63 — Onwubere 13, Bolick 11, Malonzo 9, Ferrer 9, Anthony 6, Rike 3, Taha 2, Balanza 2, Elorde 2, Grey 2, Faundo 1, Doliguez 0, Subido 0.
Quarters: 18-9, 36-29, 60-41, 85-63.