Coach Norman Black simply wanted his charges to recover from a letdown against NLEX last week.
The decorated mentor got exactly that and more in the Bolts’ 101-75 drubbing of hapless Alaska in Friday’s PBA Governors’ Cup contest at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
“Our defense in the second half was very, very good, particularly in the third quarter,” Black told reporters in the postgame chat. “Combine that with the fact that Baser Amer got really hot.”
Amer finished with a team-best 27 points built on a 6-for-11 shooting clip from deep. Allen Durham tossed in a near triple-double with 25 points, 15 boards and nine assists.
“We really wanted to focus on trying to establish ourselves as a good defensive team,” Black said after Meralco rose to 2-1 for the tournament.
Meralco’s defense, one that its mentor rued was barely felt in their losing stand against NLEX, was especially harsh to the Aces’ starters and their new import, Frank House.
Coming in to replace an injured Justin Watts, House only had eight points. Alaska, which dropped its fourth straight game, got the goods from Chris Banchero and Simon Enciso, who each tallied 15 points.
Not only did the Bolts make a statement defensively, but Black felt like his wards were also able to get back on their usual form and prime themselves up for a Sunday showdown against Phoenix.
“We felt we let ourselves down in the last game,” he said. “It’s a big weekend for us … Even though Phoenix lost their [previous match], they played quite well against TNT.”
“They had a chance to win the game, particularly up until the last six minutes of the game. So we’re really expecting a tough … and a very physical game,” Black added.
Magnolia also flashed its might on defense when it mattered to hold off Rain or Shine, 69-68, in the second game.
“It’s a test of our character. We were just mentally [tougher] in the end,” said Hotshots coach Chito Victolero, whose charges improved to 2-1.