FIFTEEN years ago, there was this team in the PBA that placed dead-last in the kickoff Philippine Cup, but managed to advance to the finals of the season-ending Governors’ Cup and won it too.
That was Sta. Lucia Realty, which won its first championship in the PBA during the 2001 Governors’ Cup after finishing last in the Philippine Cup that same season.
Now, Meralco is in the same situation in this season’s Governors’ Cup as the now-disbanded SLR team was during the 2001.
Interestingly, Norman Black was part of that triumphant SLR team as its coach.
Can Black do it again?
That’s the big question now waiting for an answer in the days to come as the Bolts and Black work in tandem in the 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup finals opposite either San Miguel Beer or Barangay Ginebra.
“It’s a good feeling for the Meralco team to enter the finals for the first time,” Black told People’s Journal/Tonight yesterday, a day after the Bolts defeated sister Talk ‘N Text in four games Monday.
“I’m happy for the players, the Meralco community, and our supporters,” added the 6-foot-5 American who started out as import in the PBA before he shifted his attention to coaching chores which resulted into 11 championships in three teams (SMB, SLR and TNT).
The Bolts, who entered the league in 2010 by acquiring the same SLR franchise, dispatched the Tropang Texters in Game 4 of their best-of-5 semifinal showdown, 94-88, in a game where Cliff Hodge put together a prolific show that paved the way for his career-high 32 points.
His triple with 49.6 seconds remaining gave the Bolts a 91-85 lead which virtually sent the Texters to the gutter.
In the finals, however, Black readily admitted the tough task awaiting the Bolts, no matter who they face.
“Now that we are here, it’s important that we focus on the bigger goal of winning the title,” said Black, who is in his 17th finals appearance and his first since 2014 season. “No matter who we face, it will be tough and we realize that, but we will be ready.”
Black is also counting on his hard-working import in Allen Durham whom he said has been their ‘rock and foundation the entire conference.’
“We will continue to put emphasis on being one as a team while supporting Allen Durham,” said Black, whose last taste of championship happened during the 2012-2013 season when his former team TNT swept the Rain or Shine, 4-0, in the Philippine Cup.
Meanwhile, Troy Rosario practically conceded the Rookie of the Year race to Chris Newsome after the TNT Katropa freshman failed to live up to expectations for his team in the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals against Meralco.
Coming into the series slightly ahead of the Bolts playmaker in the average statistical points standings, Rosario faltered in the Final Four for the Texters while Newsome came through for his team to bridge the gap.
And Rosario feels his closest pursuer is bound to overtake him -- if he hasn’t already -- as Newsome is set to have more games under his belt in the finals.