Reynel Hugnatan is set to rejoin Meralco following a brief absence while Aaron Black will miss the start of the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals due to his injury.
Coach Norman Black said the team expects Hugnatan to be back this weekend after the veteran big man flew to his hometown of Bacolod City to attend the wake of his mother.
The Bolts mentor also said his son will be out for another week after hurting his right hand two minutes into Meralco’s 95-83 victory over Terrafirma last Sept. 16.
Black, who has missed the last two games, and Hugnatan will again be out for the Bolts’ final elimination round assignment against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Despite missing Black and later Hugnatan, Meralco has been able to see the rest of the team deliver key contributions since returning to action last week from the league’s health and safety protocols.
Anjo Caram has raised his game in lieu of Black’s injury, averaging 10.3 points and 4.3 assists while rookie Alvin Pasaol scored a conference-high 17 in the Bolts’ 104-101 win over the NLEX Road Warriors that gave them the twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
“Hopefully we've been able to develop the team over the course of this conference and guys have their confidence up and everybody will be able to contribute as much as they can, but I've been very, very reliant on my bench the entire conference,” the Meralco coach said.
Key players Allein Maliksi and Mac Belo also picked up the slack left by Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge, who missed the two games last week due to COVID-19 guidelines.
Newsome and Hodge saw limited action in their return against NLEX, but is expected to play prominent roles once the quarterfinals begin.
Newsome’s return, however, was marred by his ejection with 10:38 left in the fourth quarter during an argument with the Road Warriors’ Tony Semerad.
The Meralco guard was tossed for a Flagrant Foul 2 after he threw the ball at Semerad which prompted cooler heads to intervene.
Newsome was fined P20,000 by the PBA Commissioner’s Office for his F2 infraction.