Coach Black warns vs com­pla­cency

As Mer­alco Bolts near re­turn to PBA Fi­nals af­ter a 2-0 lead against the Star Hot­shots

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Prime Sports -

MANILA--The Mer­alco Bolts are just one win away from a re­turn trip to the PBA Gover­nors’ Cup Fi­nals af­ter a com­pre­hen­sive 98-74 vic­tory over the Star Hot­shots on Tuesday in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

The Bolts pounced on the Hot­shots right from the very be­gin­ning, tak­ing a 30-11 lead at the end of the first quar­ter, and never let­ting up as they took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five semi­fi­nals se­ries.

It was a sub­lime per­for­mance on both ends of the floor for Mer­alco: they shot 52% from the field, and lim­ited the Hot­shots to only 31% shoot­ing.

The Bolts’ per­for­mance de­lighted Coach Nor­man Black, es­pe­cially af­ter his team strug­gled out of the gate in Game 1 and needed to win in car­diac fash­ion.

“We did a good job of sus­tain­ing our ef­fort tonight, from the start to the fin­ish,” he said af­ter­ward. “Of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively, I thought we ex­e­cuted very, very well.”

“I thought we did a much bet­ter job of beat­ing their pres­sure de­fense to­day, right from the start of the game. We didn’t get hit in the face like we did the last game,” he added.

In Game 1 last Sunday, the Bolts ap­peared shock­ingly un­pre­pared for the Hot­shots, and trailed 21-7 at the end of the open­ing frame.

They were even­tu­ally able to im­pose their will on the game, and leaned on a huge run in the fourth quar­ter to steal the vic­tory, 72-66.

There was no need for such a come­back in Sta. Rosa, how­ever.

“This time, we were ready,” said Black. “We re­acted im­me­di­ately.”

“The guys re­ally stepped up tonight, and it was a to­tal team ef­fort,” he added.

Im­port Allen Durham again led the way for Mer­alco with 18 points and 25 re­bounds, but four other play­ers scored in dou­bledig­its – in­clud­ing Ranidel de Ocampo, who had his best game in Mer­alco uni­form. Com­ing off the bench, the vet­eran for­ward fired 18 points on 7-of-11 shoot­ing, and earned Player of the Game honors.

“Sabi lang ni coach na ayaw niya maulit ‘yung bad start namin noong nakaraan, noong Game 1, so gi­nawa lang namin ‘yung best namin,” he ex­plained dur­ing a TV in­ter­view af­ter the game.

How­ever, both Black and de Ocampo warn that the Bolts can­not take the Hot­shots lightly come Game 3, even as they will now be play­ing sans Paul Lee who is out for the rest of the con­fer­ence with a knee in­jury.

“Ayaw lang namin mag­ing com­pla­cent,” said de Ocampo. “Ayaw namin mawalan ng en­ergy sa game. Ayaw namin mag­ing so­brang kumpyansa at kam­pante.”

“It’s not over yet,” said Black, for his part. “We have one more game to go, and we’re go­ing to have to take ‘em out, hope­fully in the next game.”

Game 3 of the Star-Mer­alco se­ries is on Thurs­day at the Araneta Coli­seum.

If the Bolts also win that game, they would have beaten the Hot­shots in all of their meet­ings in the sea­son-end­ing Gover­nors’ Cup.


MER­ALCO'S Ranidel de Ocampo at­tempts a jump shot against the de­fense of Star's Marc Pin­gris in Game 2 of their PBA Gover­nors' Cup semi­fi­nals se­ries. De Ocampo scored 18 points in Mer­alco's 98-74 win.

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