Coach Black warns vs complacency
As Meralco Bolts near return to PBA Finals after a 2-0 lead against the Star Hotshots
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.