JUDGING from the difficult times it went through before and after the start of the PBA Governors’ Cup and at the latter part of the eliminations, Meralco cannot be taken for granted from now on.
No doubt about that.
The Bolts lost six of their first seven outings in the season-ending conference in a bad start that came at the heels of a forgettable showing in a Thailand mini club tournament where they wound up with a 1-4 slate.
The Bolts though did not lose their spirit as they took one game at a time that resulted in a sweep of their last four games in the elimination and a spot in the magic eight.
With 5-6 slate, the Bolts wound up number 7 which meant that they had to beat number 2 Phoenix in the quarterfinals to reach the semifinal round.
Rising to the occasion, the Bolts beat the Fuel Masters twice, the last one going to extra period, 108-103, last Friday in a big victory that impressed no less than Alaska coach Alex Compton.
“I have the highest respect for coach Norman (Black), Meralco, Allen Durham and how hard they are playing,” Compton told People’s Journal.
“I was so impressed watching the play last night (Friday night). I know we have a real battle on our hands this series,” added Compton.
Compton thus has clear idea of what’s in store for his Aces as they play the Bolts in the best-of-five semifinal series starting today at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Going into the 6:30 p.m. encounter, the Aces have to contend with the daunting presence of Durham whose fine play seems to rub off on the Meralco locals, led by Baser Amer, easily one of the smallest guys on court that night who delivered a yeoman job after scoring 26 points.
Durham, on the other hand, dished out a scintillating performance that has made him back-to-back best import awardee, cutting loose with 32 points, 21 rebounds and nine assists as he powered the Bolts back to the semifinal of the tournament for third straight time.
Black credited the Bolts for the ego-boosting win, but at the same time sounded caution simply because they have the Aces to play in the series.
“Credit to our guys. They’re so persistent and stubborn in what they want to achieve,” said Black, referring to his Bolts.
“The problem is we’re playing Alaska in two days. But I’m sure the guys will continue what they’re doing now. I’m sure we’ll be ready on Sunday,” added Black.
Meralco is the only one among the four lesser seeded teams to win twice, the three others – Blackwater, NLEX and San Miguel Beer – losing right away in the quarters.
The Aces, who finished third after the elimination, defeated the Beermen to advance to the semis right away.