Lofton fires 54 and gives Meralco coaches something to think about
With the way Zach Lofton burned the nets in his debut as Meralco as an undersized import in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup, coach Luigi Trillo and his staff have a good problem in their hands.
“With the way he’s playing, the options are now open. He opened the door,” Trillo said after Lofton’s 54 points boosted the Bolts in crushing the NorthPort Batang Pier on Sunday at Philsports Arena in Pasig City to rise to 5-1 in the season-opening conference.
Trillo bared that the arrangement was for the Bolts to have Lofton as reinforcement for at least two games while finding someone who could permanently replace Su Braimoh, who went down with a torn Achilles last week against NLEX.
But the 6-foot-4 Lofton picked up where he left off in the East Asia Super League where he was initially tapped exclusively for that competition, and produced the highest points scored by a debuting import since Troy Williams went for 55 for Terrafirma last February in last season’s Governors’ Cup. The Bolts climbed up to solo third in the standings, trailing only the Magnolia Hotshots, who were staking their 6-0 record against the San Miguel Beermen at presstime, and the 6-1 Phoenix Fuel Masters.
Meralco, however, takes its focus away from the PBA for a brief moment to play Japan’s Ryukyu Golden Kings in an EASL game in Macau on Wednesday.
NorthPort dropped to 5-3 that snapped a three-game winning streak and put a damper on a stretch of three games in five days which started with wins over Converge and San Miguel.
Rookie Fran Yu fired 31 points highlighting his stellar marksmanship with six triples, but the Batang Pier absorbed the defeat after Lofton led the Bolts’ breakaway in the second half.
The Batang Pier’s defeat also came on the day they had forged a proposed deal to send the rights of Robert Bolick along with guard Kent Salado to the NLEX Road Warriors for Don Trollano, Ben Adamos, Kris Rosales, and next year’s second round draft pick.
Lofton previously played for Meralco against Jeremy Lin and Taiwanese side New Taipei City in the EASL, firing 35 points in the road defeat.
The catch though, is that the Bolts are giving up some size they got from Braimoh, who is four inches taller than Lofton and was among the topscoring import of the conference with over 32 points per contest prior to the injury.
“It’s not like he took every shot, he was moving the ball. But once he started getting his groove, you have to make way for that and give him the ball,” Trillo said of Lofton, who made nine triples while adding seven rebounds and four assists in almost 37 minutes.
“But I’m glad, I’m happy we have him now. Obviously, we have to talk to our coaching staff about moving forward with this and if you’re rolling, you’re rolling, you stay with it. We’ll probably find out in the next few days.” INQ