Tighter race to quarterfinals
Arinze Onuaku can make a huge impact even without asserting himself in offense.
The burly Meralco import dominated again inside the paint, giving his teammates room to operate as the Bolts snapped Alaska’s seven-game winning streak with an 89-74 victory on Sunday that tightened the top-two race in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Arinze controlled the paint and it was a good team effort on our part,” said Meralco coach Norman Black of his import who scored 14 points and grabbed 23 rebounds.
“We came into this game knowing it’s going to be tough and our defense was exceptional tonight,” added Black after Meralco won a fourth straight game and rose to 7-2, now tied for second with its victim.
In the nightcap, Barangay Ginebra improved its chances of making the eight-team quarterfinals after routing Magnolia, 104-84.
The Gin Kings raised their record to 3-5 while the Hotshots, along with idle Columbian Dyip, remained a full game ahead at 4-5.
The Bolts shot the lights out in the third quarter with Jared Dilinger and Chris Newsome pushing up the pace to break free from the headstrong Aces.
Newsome sparked the Merlaco run by squeezing his way in the lane before executing a one-hand jam over the much taller Antonio Campbell.
Even Ranidel De Ocampo and versatile guard Baser Amer got into the scoring act that saw the Bolts build an 18-point advantage going into the final canto.
With the Alaska loss, Rain or Shine was left alone on top at
8-1 and the Bolts will have advantage in the tiebreak for No. 2 if they end up tied with the Aces after the eliminations.
“We’re not there yet,” said Black. “We still have two more games, and we still control our fate. Again, we have to play our best in these games if we want to get that twice-to-beat.”
So efficient was the Meralco defense that Alaska gunner Vic Manuel was forced out of his comfort zone and struggled for his 22 points.