By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
FAILED to notch a first-ever Philippine Basketball Association title for a third time, the Meralco Bolts admit it is tough to swallow, but that they are nonetheless bent on picking up the pieces, moving on and continuing with their championship quest.
Lost in their best-of-seven PBA Governors’ Cup finals series, 1-4, against perennial championship tormentors Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings, the Bolts rue the missed opportunity to finally join the league’s championship roll but recognize that the Kings had their number anew.
“That (Kings) definitely was the better team. We had our opportunities in Game One and in Game Three but we just could not capitalize on those 50-50 chances. Hats off to them because they really played well in the series. Even the game we won (Game Two) they played well,” said Meralco import Allen Durham, whose team saw its championship hopes extinguished after dropping Game Five, 105-93, on Friday..
Mr. Durham underscored that the loss of big man Raymond Almazan because of knee injury early in Game Three and for Game Five affected their ability to put up a sustained fight against the Kings.
“He (Almazan) definitely would have helped us especially in rebounding and second-chance points. That’s why he was there and he was doing it all conference long and we lose him and it was tough,” said Mr. Durham, adjudged PBA best import for the third time.
Mr. Almazan went down early with a left knee injury in the first quarter of Game Three after colliding with Barangay Ginebra guard LA Tenorio.
He was later diagnosed with a lateral meniscal tear which would require surgery.
Mr. Almazan surprisingly was able to play in Game Four but in Game Five was forced to sit it out to avoid risking further damage.
His absence took a toll on Meralco as it could not keep in step with the Kings, whom it had difficulty containing especially when it went to their big guys like Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter.
The finals defeat of the Bolts was the third at the hands of Barangay Ginebra, which defeated the former in the Governors’ Cup finals in 2016 and 2017.
Despite another finals loss, Meralco coach Norman Black said that they can at least take solace in the fact that they got to finish the season on a better note.
“We finished the year better. Entering the tournament we were coming off an 11th and ninth place finish in the previous conferences. The addition of Raymond and Allein (Maliksi), and the return of AD (Durham), made us competitive. It showed that we improved our talent and played better as the year progressed,” said Mr. Black, reiterating that they are going back to the drawing board and coming back better.
“Things did not go as we wanted it. We’re now 0-3 in the finals and it’s tough. But still, personally I have a lot of growth not only in the series but the entire season. We took a lot from this series and hopefully when we get the chance to be in the finals again we would be better,” Bolts wingman Chris Newsome, for his part, said.