Meralco should’ve been dead in the water midway through the season, as they figured in a 1-6 start. But don’t tell that to the Bolts.
Last October 12, Meralco were handed a devastating 94-99 loss at the hands of the hapless Northport Batang Pier. And that served as a rallying point for the two-time Governors’ Cup runners-up.
“We weren’t just clicking. Well, then our defense started to turn around – the guys started to buy in into the defensive system, principles, and philosophy,” recalled Bolts head coach Norman Black.
“All of a sudden we defended well, which gave us a chance to win our games.”
There has been no room for errors for the Bolts since then. A loss would have ended their season right then and there.
A morale-boosting win over the NLEX Road Warriors last October 14 provided a spark that would lead to victories over the Magnolia Hotshots, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, and the San Miguel Beermen to clinch the final playoff slot.
Then, standing in their way were the second-seeded Phoenix Fuel Masters. And the Bolts needed to overcome them twice to make it to the Final Four.
Making matters worse, Cliff Hodge, a wide-bodied stopper, succumbed to an ankle injury early in Game One.
But pride took over for the Bolts.
“This is a conference where we’ve actually done well the past two years with Allen Durham and it would be pretty bad for us if we’re eliminated immediately,” the 11-time champion coach quipped.
“That’s why everybody’s been fighting.”
After stunning the Fuel Masters in a masterful Game One rout, the Bolts needed to dig deep in Game 2. And they were able to storm back from 16 down to take down Phoenix in overtime, 108-103.
“My guys have been very determined and very stubborn in terms of what they want to accomplish.
“And I’m sure they’ll continue to do that. It’s difficult not to,” he beamed as the Bolts survived six elimination games to get to this point.
Still, Meralco will not be celebrating this one, as they continue on to settle some unfinished business.
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