NONTHABURi, Thailand -- Meralco did its best for three quarters against host Mono Vampire Thailand.
But Thai import Marcus Keene took over from there.
Keene scored eight of his game-high 29 points in a decisive stretch in the fourth quarter as Mono Vampire rallied to beat undermanned Meralco, 100-92, in the opening-day of the 2018 FIBA Asia Champions Cup at the Stadium 29 in Nonthaburi, Thailand here Thursday.
Another import-- Michael Singletary -- also came up big with 25 points, including back-to-back baskets that gave theMono Vampire a 96-89 lead late in the game.
Before the late-game explosion of both Keene and Singletary, the game was tied for the last time at 70-all going into the fourth and final period.
Darongpang Apiromvilaichai added 13 points and Nopporn Saengtong contributed 11 points for Mono Vampire, who are hoping to improve their fourth-place finish last year.
Diamond Stone, a last-minute replacement for the injured 7-2 Canadian Liam McMorrow, led Meralco with 23 points and eight rebounds,
Two-time PBA Best Import awardee Allen Durham finished with 20 points and 18 rebounds for the Bolts, who led by as many as eight points before losing steam.
Baser Amer added 18 points and Reynel Hugnatan had 13 points for Meralco, which played minus Fil-Ams Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge.
Newcome and Hodge failed to get the green light to play as local players in the week-long competition featuring eight top ballclubs from from around Asia.
Meralco will resume its campaign whn it meets B. League titlist Alvark Tokyo today.
The Bolts will close out their group elimination assignment against defending champion Al-Riyadi of Lebanon on Sept. 29.
The PBA-backed Bolts, who are seeking to end the country’s 22-year title drought, now need to sweep their remaining two assignmentsd to advance to the semifinals of the premier Asia club competition.
The last time the Philippines won the Champions Cup was in 1996 courtesy of Hapee Toothpaste, which was then reinforced by Bobby Parks and Tony Harris.
Last year, the Isaiah Austin-reinforced Chooks-to-Go Philippine team finished fifth in Chenzhou, China.
Mono Vampire (100)-- Keene 29, Singletary 25, Darongpan Apiromvilaichai 13, Saengtong 11, Klahan 7, Chanthachon 6, Ananti 4, Suktub 3, Sunthonsiri 2.
Meralco (92) -- Stone 23, Durham 20, Amer 18, Hugnatan 13, Caram 8, Salva 5, Tolomia 3, Jamito 2, Atkins 0, Ballesteros 0, Canaleta 0, Lanete 0.
Quarterscores: 21-28; 47-50; 70-70; 100-92.