MANILA—Newcomer Sammy Monroe fired 29 points, while Al Vergara scored back-to-back baskets down the stretch to power Barako Coffee Masters, 97-93, over the Sta. Lucia Realtors Sunday at the start of the 35th PBA Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum.

The 6’5” Monroe, a former standout of Newberry College, showed enough firepower and Vergara displayed the needed intensity for an auspicious start for the Coffee Masters.

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“I told my players to just work hard as we want to prove that we belong here in this league. Fortunately, we made a big stride today,” said Junel Baculi, who replaced Leo Isaac in the Barako Coffee bench.

This early, Monroe, who had 21 in the first half alone, seems to be the final piece of the Barako puzzle. The team finished at 10th place in the last four conferences.

Aside from his offense, Monroe also hauled 11 rebounds.