Hugnatan scores career-high as Meralco outlasts Barako in double OT
Still adjusting to new coach Norman Black's system, the Bolts faltered defensively to start the contest and had to claw back from a 15-point deficit before weathering Barako's storm down the stretch and effectively shutting them down with a 2-3 zone.
"That was a well-earned victory for us today," Black said after the game.
Black was installed as head coach of the only reeling Manny V. Pangilinan-owned PBA team after its forgettable 14-22 record last season.
"We had a hard time controlling their 3-point shooting in the first half and that really hurt us. But our zone helped us tonight. We played them zone 50% of the game to try and take them out of their offense."
Reynel Hugnatan poured a career-high 28 points along with 7 rebounds for the Bolts. He never missed from the stripe (10-of-10), hitting the game-sealing free throws with 4.1 ticks left in the second overtime. His previous career-high was 24 points with Alaska in 2005, per PBA Chief Statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
Sean Anthony and John Wilson were sparks for Meralco during their rally as they contributed 14 and 13 points, respectively. Anthony added 9 rebounds, two assists, and 3 steals.
While Cliff Hodge did the dirty work on the boards with 16 rebounds to go with his 10 points.
"It's a good start, it's the start we were looking for," Black said.
"Even though we struggled a little bit, I thought we played well in the second half and we certainly played well down the stretch to win the game."
Meralco tied the game at 90 on a Gary David basket with 1:36 left in regulation. The last play was set for David again with 8.6 remaining but was unable to convert thanks to a crucial defensive play by Denok Miranda, who ripped the ball right from David's hands.
It became an up-and-down affair in the first extra session as the Bolts nearly escaped with the win if not for Chico Lanete's heroics.
Lanete, who scored 9 of the Energy's 14 fourth quarter points, executed new Barako coach Koy Banal's instructions to a T as he drove hard to the hoop, challenging Hugnatan's defense, and laying the ball in as time expired, 101-all, to force a second overtime.
Lanete wound up with 21 points, 5 rebounds, two assists and two steals for the Energy while JC Intal scored 20 markers.
Denok Miranda and RR Garcia had 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Barako capitalized on the Bolts' 17 turnovers and milked 18 points off it while getting 60 points contribution from its bench. Though Meralco led in assists, 25-15.
Meralco 112 - Hugnatan 28, Anthony 14, Wilson 13, Atkins 10, Ferriols 10, Dillinger 7, David 6, Cortez 4, Sena 4, Guevarra 4, Buenafe 0, Ildefonso 0, Macapagal 0.
Barako Bull - Lanete 21, Intal 20, Wilson 16, Miranda 15, Garcia 14, Lastimosa 6, Pennisi 5, Marcelo 4, Pascual 4, Fortuna 3, Salvador 0, Salva 0.
Quarters scores: 19-25; 45-54; 71-76; 90-90; 101-101; 112-108.