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After turbulent Comm’s Cup, Meralco hopes to bring in Durham for season finale


For Meralco head coach Norman Black, the Bolts should have won their playoff match versus the Alaska Aces Friday night had they only done a better job shooting free throws and in denying the opposition to get second chances.

“[Making] crucial free throws down the stretch probably would’ve kept us separated from them and we gave up way too many offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and in the overtime,” said Black after their 103-108 defeat.

“And I thought that really probably made the big difference in the game.”

According to the numbers, the Orangemen shot 16 of their 22 shots from the charity stripe, and 22 of the opposition’s 53 rebounds came from the offensive end, which the Aces converted into 34 second-chance points.

And those issues Black mentioned hounded the Bolts most especially in a stretch so crucial.

With 20.7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Meralco already had a 95-91 lead, and they appeared to be walking out of the SM Mall of Asia Arena with the win when Chris Banchero missed his three-pointer moments later.

But Jvee Casio was able to secure the miss, and he gave it again to Banchero, who would finally knock down the triple.

The gap has been reduced to just a solitary point, but Chris Newsome had the opportunity to widen their lead and create ample separation as he got sent to the foul line with 9.5 ticks left. But unfortunately, he only split his freebies.

That opened the door for the Aces, and Banchero didn’t waste it as he made a jumper to send the game into OT.

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Alaska then had the upper hand in the extra period when Vic Manuel scored back-to-back hits to give his side a 104-102 lead with 1:16 left. Delroy James actually had a chance to tie it up, but he also split his freebies.

“We should have won the game, but Alaska was there fighting also,” rued the outspoken Black.

The loss has booted the Bolts out from contention, ending their campaign with a 4-8 win-loss record. Assessing how their mid-season conference had gone, Black said that changing imports three times affected their run.

Meralco first had Gani Lawal before having to bring in Jimmie Lee Taylor as the former injured his hamstring. Taylor lasted for a game only before Lawal came back, but they decided to switch anew and fly in James up to the end.

“Changing imports three times probably didn’t help things at all.

“I think if you notice most of the teams that are doing well, they have their imports from start to finish. And that’s always the case in the PBA: when you change, you’re gambling, taking a chance,” furthered Black, one of the all-time PBA import greats.

But it’s not all negatives for Black. If there had been any positives, the American coach liked the way his team fought in their last three games, including their win over San Miguel Beer that set up the playoff versus Alaska.

“I thought we played very well the last three games, came upon the wrong end two of those games but we were very competitive compared to some of our games earlier in the conference … That’s a big win for us against San Miguel.”

Now, the Bolts will have their sights set on the season-ending Governors’ Cup, where they have been solid contenders since 2016 big thanks to Allen Durham, a former two-time Best Import who towed them to the 2016 and 2017 Finals.

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With that, Black said that there is a strong possibility that Meralco will bring the hulking 6-foot-5 cager back.

“It’s a strong possibility that AD will be back. He gives us what we need. I think we gave up 22 offensive rebounds tonight so we really need somebody to man the paint and control the boards. I think that will help us,” he said.

“In the past, he’s been a perfect fit for us. Hope we can work things out with him.”

Written By

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.


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