Meralco clinches playoff bonus with an idea who it would use it against
Meralco coach Norman Black sounded like someone who knew how things would turn out on Friday night.
After dispatching of Phoenix, 109-90, in their PBA Governors Cup showdown at Smart Araneta Coliseum, Black said the twice-to-beat protection the Bolts earned with the victory would come in handy in the quarterfinals—where the multititled coach said a dangerous foe lay in wait.
“At this point, I’m just happy to get that twice-to-beat because we’re going to need it against San Miguel,” he said after the game.
There’s no question the Bolts will need every available edge they can get against a stacked club reinforced by perhaps the most talented import in the season-ending tournament. After all, Meralco did have a 26-point lead against San Miguel Beer the last time the two teams met and still lost that one, after Beermen reinforcement Shabazz Muhammad torched the Bolts with 57 points and 19 rebounds.
What makes Black’s statement bold is that as he was saying it, on the court, TNT was playing NorthPort in a match that had quarterfinal implications on the Bolts. A win by TNT would send Meralco to a showdown with the Beermen. A NorthPort win would set up a first-round playoff duel between the sister teams.
Yet Black had full confidence on the Tropang Giga, even doubling down on his prediction.
“It is very obvious that we would like to watch that game [against San Miguel] again, which I’ve actually done a couple of times already, and try to learn from it so we don’t make the same mistakes if we play them again,” he added, quickly correcting himself: “When we play them again.”
TNT did back Black’s statement—but barely.
The Tropang Giga scored the first 10 points of overtime and hung tough in the face of the Batang Pier’s stubborn charge en route to a 106-101 triumph that clinched for them the No. 3 seed and the last twice-to-beat bonus.
TNT’s victory officially sealed Meralco’s playoff showdown with the Beermen, which will serve up drama on the side as Tony Bishop Jr., who spearheaded the Bolts’ rout of the Fuel Masters, felt he is due some payback against the Beermen and Muhammad—the original import choice of Meralco.
“We owe them,” Bishop said. “They beat us [before, so] we owe them.”
The Panamanian import submitted a 35-point, 13-rebound performance that helped snap Meralco’s three-game outage and raise the team’s record to 7-4.
Defensively unflinching in the first half, the Bolts cranked it up on offense in the next with Bishop and Allein Maliksi delivering key shots.
“You know we came out really aggressive in the first half; and in the second, we were able to finish that aggression,” said Bishop.
“The win was really important because we lost our last three games. Of course, when you’re losing, your confidence also takes a hit,” Black said.
“We were really trying to rebuild our confidence [tonight] knowing we would have twice-to-beat advantage if we won so we really spent a lot of time preparing for the defense of Phoenix,” he added.
The Fuel Master, who stumbled into holes as deep as 22 points, will battle the Batang Pier in a knockout match for the last quarterfinal spot.