Mac Belo delivered a strong debut for Meralco, as the Bolts managed to keep the fire from their impressive showing in the Clark bubble, 45th Season of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), thrashing the NorthPort Batang Pier, 85-63, on Friday (July 16, 2021) at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Belo topped all scorers in the hefty triple bill, wreaking havoc on a NorthPort team that had been waiting a long time for the arrival of giant trade acquisition Greg Slaughter.
The Bolts took advantage of the situation, with Belo leading the way with a career-high 27 points, nine rebounds, and three assists in only 29 minutes.
The former Gilas player, who spent his first four years in the NBA with Blackwater, struggled from behind the arc (1-of-6) but was nearly unstoppable in the paint (10-of-12).
Before joining the Bolts, he had a lifetime average of only 11.3 points.
Allein Maliksi scored 14 points off the bench, and the others chipped in as the Bolts lived up to their reputation as the favorite after reaching the semifinals of the last all-Filipino tournament.
Coach Norman Black’s team narrowly lost a crucial Game Five against eventual winner Barangay Ginebra at the time.
In the starting lineup, Belo was joined by Nard Pinto, Chris Newsome, Bong Quinto, and Raymond Almazan, giving Meralco a early big advantage.
They led 18-9 after one quarter and went on to lead by as much as 25 points before finishing the sweep.
On both ends, the Bolts were efficient and merciless, holding the Batang Pier to a dismal 20% clip. In the first canto, NorthPort had an 11 percent shooting percentage.
With 13 points and 11 rebounds, Sidney Onwubere and the returning Robert Bolick led the Batang Pier, but Sean Anthony – a regular double-double machine – struggled with only six points and the same amount of rebounds.
Meanwhile, Season 46 second overall pick Jamie Malonzo made a quiet debut for the Batang Pier, scoring 9 points and grabbing 9 rebounds on 3-of-12 shooting, while Troy Rike, the 11th pick in the previous PBA Draft, only had 3 points and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes.
Despite the overwhelming victory, veteran coach Norman Black was dissatisfied with the way his Bolts began the new season.
“It really was not a smooth first game. Our offense was not as smooth as we would have liked. But fortunately, our defense held up. We played very good defense as a team, and of course, Mac Belo had a big game for us. It’s a good start,” he said.
Meralco 85 – Belo 27, Maliksi 14, Quinto 8, Hodge 6, Pasaol 5, Black 4, Jose 4, Newsome 4, Jackson 3, Pinto 3, Hugnatan 3, Caram 2, Jamito 2, Canete 0, Almazan 0.
NorthPort 63 – Onwubere 13, Bolick 11, Malonzo 9, Ferrer 9, Anthony 6, Lanete 3, Rike 3, Taha 2, Balanza 2, Elorde 2, Grey 2, Faundo 1, Subido 0, Doliguez 0.
Quarters: 18-9; 36-29; 60-41; 85-63.