Just in case anybody forgot, Arinze Onuaku was the best import in this conference two years ago. And he reminded people why, putting together a performance that helped Meralco open the PBA Commissioner’s Cup strong Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Onuaku punched in 30 points, missing just one of 15 attempts from the floor, while adding 19 rebounds, six assists, three steals and four blocks in a 43-minute stint that helped the Bolts stop the Columbian Dyip, 116-103.
And that’s despite the fact that the bull-strong import came straight from nearby Cardinal Santos Medical Center due to a bum stomach.
“First, I’d like to tip my hat off to Arinze,” said Bolts coach Norman Black. “He’s been sick the last few days. He hasn’t practiced with us and he came from the hospital.
“I would like to tip my hat off to him for playing really, really well. He gives us exactly what we need—rebounds and post play.”
“I’m still sick but I just tried to give my team what I could today. I only got one more day so I’ll try to do it again,” said Onuaku. “I didn’t really know how it was gonna go, I hadn’t seen my team since Friday. But they kept me involved in the game and what they wanted to do, guys were able to make some shots.
“I was a game-time decision. I knew my guys needed me so I tried to give them what I could.”
Later in the night, Phoenix Petroleum handed Blackwater its second straight loss via a 107-102 victory.
Onuaku certainly set the bar for imports in this conference but he wasn’t the only big-time performer for the Bolts.
Chris Newsome added 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while Niño Canaleta and Nico Salva combined for 15 points off the bench to give Meralco the victory.
Jared Dillinger chipped in 11 points, including the dagger triple from the left corner that put Meralco ahead, 108-96, with 1:41 remaining.
“I believe that our locals, the other guys, also played well. KG (Canaleta), JD (Dillinger), and the other guys,” Black said. “Great effort, great start for us coming off the All-Filipino. Hopefully, we can sustain this performance the rest of the conference.”
CJ Aiken played much better offensively with 21 points that went with 18 rebounds after scoring only nine in his PBA debut in Columbian’s win over Blackwater, but the Dyip obviously need more than just that if he wants to keep his job.
Jerramy King, who erupted for a career-high 30 points three days ago, had only 12 points this time on a sputtering 4-of-14 shooting from the field.
Until that late Meralco spurt, though, the Dyip—riding on a strong opening victory over Blackwater—kept backing the Bolts into a corner, establishing control in the first half and staying in the thick of the fight for most of the final two periods.