Chris Banchero proved once more why Meralco acquired his services following an impressive performance in Game Three of their 2022 PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal battle versus Magnolia on Sunday evening.
The Fil-Italian guard equaled his conference-high in scoring with 23 points on a 47-percent clip. And he helped the Bolts to a 101-95 victory, which has given them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series after losing the opener.
He drilled three triples, the last as the most crucial one. It sparked a 13-3 surge towards a 95-85 advantage with 4:31 left to play. The 33-year-old also collected five assists and four rebounds in nearly 33 minutes.
“Yeah, he was really good tonight,” praised head coach Norman Black shortly after the game at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
“He was the stabilizer, he was really excelling at the point guard position. I thought defensively, he was pretty solid. But offensively, he made big shots for us, and that’s one of the reasons why we tried to recruit him.”
It was easily Banchero’s best outing in the playoffs, although he’s been scoring in double figures since the start of the semis last Wednesday.
After scoring just nine in their quarterfinal triumph over San Miguel, the seven-year pro dropped 16 in a losing effort in Game One. Then he chipped in 10 the following match to help his side tie the series at a game apiece.
Now, thanks to that huge outing, Banchero has moved just a step closer to returning to the Finals – at the expense of his former team.
He never reached the semis in the two conferences he was with Magnolia. He suffered QF exits in the 2019 Governors’ Cup and the 2020 Philippine Cup, where they lost to Phoenix – a team he’d eventually move to.
Black admitted that Banchero’s offense has been up and down since signing with Meralco last February. The trade was one of the biggest developments since the league opened up the new free agency ruling.
Well, he averaged 10.5 points in the eight outings he played for the Bolts in the eliminations, but half of which saw him finish in single digits. And that included a stretch where he mustered just six points in three straight games.
Thus, the satisfaction on the part of the champion bench tactician to have witnessed the former fifth overall pick deliver in the important victory.
“Since he joined us, his offense has been a little bit down, compared to what it was with Phoenix. But tonight, he stepped up and made some big shots for us.”
The second game of each playdate is also livestreamed on SMART Sports.