PBA Finals: We were never the same team after Almazan’s injury, laments Black

Published January 17, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Waylon Galvez

For the third time in four seasons, Meralco came up of winning the championship after losing to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel 105-93 in the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Members of the Meralco Bolts accept the runner-up trophy from PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial and league chairman Ricky Vargas after losing to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel 105-93 in Game 5 of the PBA Governors' Cup Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena. (Rio Deluvio)
Members of the Meralco Bolts accept the runner-up trophy from PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial and league chairman Ricky Vargas after losing to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel 105-93 in Game 5 of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena. (Rio Deluvio)

Many, including coach Norman Black felt that Meralco has the right pieces to compete against Ginebra since the Bolts added key players to their roster.

The acquisition of 6-foot-9 center Raymond Almazan gave the Bolts that legitimate threat inside the paint and a game changer for the team as he allows shooters to take the outside shots.

The importance of having Almazan was evident for the Bolts during a 104-102 victory in Game 2 last January 10 in Lucena City that leveled the best-of-seven series at 1-1.

However, things turned bad for Meralco when Almazan hurt his left knee early in Game 3. Diagnosed with a lateral meniscal tear, Almazan did play in Game 4 but was in obvious pain, which led to him missing Game 5.

That, according to Black, was the turning point in the series.

“We faced a lot of adversity in this series… we lost our big man,” said Black.

“We never seemed to be the same team again. Certainly we went up against a team that’s quite big and quite talented, and without Raymond in the middle we suffered inside the paint points and interior defense.”

“Lot of credits should go to Ginebra, I mean they took advantage of the situation. I think before Raymond got hurt, it was tied 1-1, and first quarter (of Game 3) was a close quarter. So we’re very competitive, but once he got hurt everything seemed to change.”

“I’m not blaming it all that Raymond wasn’t there but that was a big factor,” added Black.

Despite the setback, Black said there are a few positive takeaways, especially the improvement they had after two disappointing conferences, finishing 11th in the Philippine Cup and eighth in the Commissioner’s Cup.

He also mentioned the talent they got this season, first adding former Letran stalwart Bong Quinto from the Rookie Draft, then they trade for Almazan in a deal with Rain or Shine last conference, and the acquisition of Allein Maliksi in a trade with Blackwater this conference.

The squad likewise had Allen Durham as reinforcement and eventual Best Import.

“The addition of Raymond and the addition of Allein, of course the return of AD made us so much more competitive team. It gave us a chance to win a championship this conference,” said Black.

“I have to be very, very happy with that. It just shows that we improved our talent and we played a lot better. So talent wins games,” added Black, who mentioned that he and Durham would talk soon for another possible stint next season.

Black said that while people would only remember the champion team and not the second placer, he is still proud of what they have accomplished, knowing their time would come.

“The positive side is we did make it to the championship, which means that we started the league with 12 teams, and there were only two left – and we’re one them,” he said.

“That’s not something that’s going to make you happy. But at the same time it’s better than coming in third, fourth or sixth,” added Black, who mentioned of having a good rest the next several weeks before he start mapping out plans for the team’s Philippine Cup campaign in March.

 
CLICK HERE TO SIGN-UP
 

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

["sports","sports"]
[2030954,2878530,2878459,2878426,2878354,2878231,2878220]