MANILA, Philippines - The Meralco Bolts leaned on the stellar play of import Josh Davis and veteran swingman Gary David in their 85-74 victory over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Tuesday evening, January 27, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Davis finished with 25 points, 24 rebounds, and 3 steals in his inaugural PBA game, while David came off the bench to spark his club with 21 points.
Ginebra received 23 points and 16 rebounds from second-year big man Greg Slaughter. Their import Michael Dunigan - who was Meralco's original import choice for the 2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup - registered 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 assists.
"It's a great start for us, being able to beat Ginebra in the first game," Meralco head coach Norman Black said after the contest.
He was complimentary of his import, saying: "Josh gave us control of the boards, which is what we brought him here for."
Black was also pleased with the performance of David, who hit a number of jumpers to give Meralco a double-digit lead in the first half, and down the stretch to put the stamp on the victory for his club.
"He came in and made big shots for us in the first and second quarter… we're in better shape this time around."
Meralco was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the 2015 PBA Philippine Cup by the Alaska Aces. Their biggest weakness in the prior conference was their lack of depth up front. With Davis in the lineup, the Bolts figure to be stronger this conference.
"We scrambled and we were able to get a good import in Josh Davis," Black also said.
A 3-pointer by Mac Bacarael drew Ginebra to within three in the early goings of the third period, awakening their fan base at the MOA Arena in the process. But Meralco responded with a 17-1 run, thanks in most part to a number of jumpers from David and stellar defense by Davis on Dunigan.
Led by Slaughter's series of baskets in the final period, Ginebra trimmed the deficit to eight, 70-62. But the defense of returning head coach Ato Agustin could not muster a stop, as Davis and Davis maintained the lead for their team by scoring on consecutive possessions.
A midrange pull-up J by David extended his lead's back to 10 at 78-68. Not long after, Davis converted in the paint to increase the lead to 12, sealing the contest.
In their first game back utilizing the run-and-gun system, Ginebra shot 36% from the floor and was limited to 3 fastbreak points. LA Tenorio was a horrific 1-of-11 from the field, while Joseph Yeo fired blanks, converting 0-of-8.
Japeth Aguilar was held scoreless and attempted just one shot in 12 minutes.
Meralco hit only 38% of their shots but converted 7-of-14 from long range. The Bolts were relentless on the glass, pulling down 15 offensive rebounds that led to 21 second chance points.
Mike Cortez played a complete game, finishing with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting, 4 boards, and 4 dimes.
Coach Black and his boys (1-0) will be back in action on Friday, January 30, when they take on the KIA Carvinal (0-1). Ginebra (0-1) will look to bounce back on Sunday, February 1, as they go toe to toe with Barako Bull (0-0).
Meralco (85): Davis 25, David 21, Cortez 12, Hodge 6, Wilson 6, Ferriols 4, Hugnatan 4, Atkins 3, Anthony 2, Sena 2, Reyes 0, Ildefonso 0, Reyes 0, Buenafe 0, Macapagal 0
Barangay Ginebra (74): Slaughter 23, Dunigan 17, Baracael 11, Urbiztondo 6, Caguioa 6, Tenorio 3, Monfort 3, Helterbrand 3, Ellis 2, Mamaril 0, Yeo 0, Reyes 0, Aguilar 0, Ababou 0, Brondial 0
Quarter Scores: 18-23, 43-34, 64-50, 85-74