MANILA, Philippines—Barako Bull, aching to put behind a tournament where it felt it could have done better, opened up its campaign with a 98-78 demolition of Alaska Friday night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Willie Miller shredded Alaska’s defense, drilling 25 points after going 11 of 14 from the field while DerMarr Johnson had 19 and eight rebounds to key the Energy’s big start to the conference.
Barako Bull, however, hopes this time, it doesn’t lose steam in the end.
“I think we learned our lesson well,” said Barako Bull coach Junel Baculi after an early exit in the playoffs of the Philippine Cup.
Denzel Bowles sank the marginal freethrows and the B-Meg Derby Ace Llamados cooled off a late charge by the Meralco Bolts to prevail, 96-93, and tuck win No. 1 under their belts.
The Bolts rallied from 10 points down through the efforts of Jarrid Famous and Mac Cardona and closed in, 89-92, but Bowles, who finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds, sealed the victory with three freebies.
The Energy surprised many with a strong start to the Philippine Cup but eventually crashed out in the quarterfinals against Talk ‘N Text.
“The long break helped a lot,” said Baculi. “We studied what went wrong because we started pretty well only to choke in the end.”
Johnson, a former first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA, planed in just a week after Barako’s ouster.
The Energy showed the fruits of preparing early, especially in the third period when Miller’s long jumper on the right wing capped a dazzling 11-0 blitz. Another late run of 10 unanswered points had Barako leading, 65-44.
BARAKO BULL 98—Miller 25, Johnson 19, Najorda 10, Tubid 10, Allado 10, Pennisi 9, Salvador 6, Aquino 4, Sorongon 3, Arboleda 2, Gatumbato 0, Lanete 0, Andaya 0, Peña 0.
ALASKA 78—Parada 16, Baguio 13, Baracael 11, Custodio 9, Tenorio 8, Thoss 8, Reyes 5, Salamat 3, Eman 3, Bugia 2, Gelig 0.
Quarters: 17-16, 39-34, 72-51, 98-78
B-MEG 96—Bowles 27, Yap J. 18, Urbiztondo 10, Intal 10, Simon 10, De Vance 7, Yap R.7, Pingris 5, Barroca 2, Reavis 0, De Ocampo 0.
MERALCO 93—Cardona 32, Famous 24, Artadi 13, Ross 7, Borboran 6, Hugnatan 6, Macapagal 3, Espinas 2, Timberlake 0, Taulava 0.
Quarters: 33-18, 43-46, 73-71, 96-93