By Akio Mananes

PHOTO: SMART Sports/PBA Photo Bureau

Ateneo de Manila University product Mark Nieto showed no signs of rookie jitters as he swooped a 104-90 blowout win for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters over the starless NorthPort Batang Pier in his PBA Governor’s Cup debut in Smart Araneta Coliseum, February 12.

Nieto proved the doubters wrong and soared high to post a solid outing of 21 points and eight rebounds, living up to ROS coach Chris Gavina’s expectations after appointing him as a starter.

Controlling the tempo all-game long, the Elasto Painters were red-hot in the third quarter as Javee Mocon topped their 18-0 run with an intercept from a jump ball for the easy basket, 76-58.

Squeaking into Nieto’s limelight, import Henry Walker also had himself a night as he scratched a rare triple-double appearance of 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists to lift the corral to a 3-3 record.

The Elasto Painters also showcased their deep roster as Norbert Torres led the bench unit with 12 points, six rebounds, and two steals, Anton Asistio chalked up 11 points, Gabe Norwood bottomed 10 points and five rebounds, while Mocon and Andrei Carucut combined for 15 points and 14 rebounds.

Lacking the star power presence of Bolick and Greg Slaughter, NorthPort leaned on the backs of Jamel Artis, who replaced injured import Cameron Forte, as he finished with 23 points and 10 boards, and Ferrer notching 23 markers in a loss.

With the absence of Robert Bolick, Batang Pier maintained their grasp to ROS’ tail courtesy of Kevin Ferrer, draining 13 of his 23 points in crunch time to trim the lead to 10, 96-86.

Meanwhile, the Batang Pier saw sunshine down the road as Bolick remained in the PBA despite offers from Taiwan and Japan, with the hopes of reviving their playoff chances with a 0-5 record.

In addition, Terrafirma Dyip drove their losing skid away after sending Blackwater Elite to the bottom of the league with a 0-6 stint, 109-103, improving to a 2-4 win-loss card.