By Jonas Terrado
The Meralco Bolts’ chances of winning a first-ever PBA championship could hinge on point guard Baser Amer’s performances for the rest of the Governors’ Cup Finals against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
Amer showed his capability to lead the Bolts to victories in the PBA’s grandest stage, knocking down two triples down the stretch in Friday’s 104-102 defeat of Ginebra at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City.
He fired 17 points spiked by five three-pointers for his highest output in 15 career Finals appearances.
“Sobrang challenge sa akin,” Amer said. “Kasi once na maganda yung laro ko talagang malaking chance na manalo, sabi ni coach. So I’ll take that responsibility.”
Coach Norman Black was glad to see the former San Beda star deliver when it mattered, a knock Amer dealt with during Meralco’s two previous Finals defeats to Ginebra.
“There’s nobody happier than me to see Baser really break out and explode against Ginebra,” said Black.
As a rookie, Amer averaged 3.8 points on 43-percent shooting while sharing backcourt duties with Jimmy Alapag in the 2016 Governors’ Cup Finals that saw the Bolts lose to the Kings in six games.
His numbers improve in the following year’s Governors’ Cup Finals, producing 7.3 points despite a 36-percent clip with 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Again Meralco lost to Ginebra, in seven games.
Game 1 of this year’s duel was a struggle for Amer, going 2-of-10 from the floor as Meralco lost a 10-point deficit in a 91-87 setback.
“He struggled even in the last couple of championship series that we played against them, particularly against LA Tenorio,” Black mentioned after Game 1. “So he just has to dig deep and break through, and have a good game against the Ginebra team and against LA.”
Amer did have a good start in Game 2, though he committed two quick fouls at the start. Luckily for the Bolts, his replacement John Pinto stepped up and delivered four threes in the opening period.
Anjo Caram spent most of the fourth handling point guard duties before Black sent Amer back for the final stretch.
That was when Amer came through with a pair of long toms, his last giving the Bolts a 101-91 lead with over two minutes to go.
“He was able to make some long three-point shots when he got back in the game in the second half,” Black said. “I thought Baser came in and stabilized the game and helped us keep some distance from the Ginebra team.”
“Pag nagma-man-to-man (defense) sila, talagang halos naka-dikit sila sa akin. So medyo kailangan maging aware ako dun, pati sa mga ball screen, mga trap,” he said.
“Naka-zone sila (nung Game 2) at ang lalayo ng tira pero yung mga tirang yun pina-practice ko yun. Mag-miss man wala akong pakialam, basta yung tirang yun pina-practice ko yun.”
As the series continues, it could be safe to say that where Baser Amer goes, so will the Meralco Bolts.
And for Amer, he hopes to deliver when it counts the most.
“Hindi na ako yung dati na pasundot-sundot lang, ngayon malaki na yung responsibility ko sa team,” he said.