With his best player back and fully healthy, Meralco coach Norman Black is firm in his belief that the Bolts can get themselves back to a competitive level.
“So with him back in the lineup, I think we can compete with anybody,” Black said, referring to Chris Newsome, as the Bolts played in the season-ending PBA Governors Cup. The Rains opened their campaign with a 105-87 win. Or the Shine Elsto Painters on Sunday at Phil Sports Arena.
“I’m not saying we’ll be favorites to win the championship in the PBA, but we can definitely compete,” Black said, adding that Meralco started the campaign on the right foot after a disappointing Commissioner’s Cup. .
Much of that had to do with the absence of Newsome, who strained his calf in the first game of the midseason tournament and never saw action the rest of the way as the Bolts fell to a 4-8 record. gone.
That snapped a streak of five consecutive trips to the semi-finals, something Black and Co. will be looking to atone for immediately.
“I said at the beginning, if Newsome is healthy and he’s with the team, I don’t think we’re going to be out of the conference finals,” Black insisted. “It’s hard to lose your best player and expect him to perform at the same level as you did before.”
“Unless you maybe one [Barangay] Geneva or St. Michael [Beer]and they have a lot of good players. [they can] Just change one after the other. We don’t have that luxury,” he added.
Elsto Painters import Michael Qualls could only produce 14 points, a far cry from the 53 he scored when the two teams faced off in a tune-up game at Meralco Gym about a week ago.
“It might actually be a blessing in disguise,” Black said after the great defensive work on Qualls.
In the nightcap, Converge gave new Northport coach Bonnie Tan a tough debut after a 122-92 destruction of Batang Pier that ended the season-ending first conference doubleheader.
Meanwhile, PBA Commissioner Willie Marshall announced that the March 9-12 All-Star Game set in Pasay City, Iloilo will use a format where fans can vote for 24 players who will be selected later through the drafting process. will be distributed.
The format, in which the captains are the top two vote getters, is similar to the current format being used in the NBA as the league is set to hold the annual classic in Kailashiao, Pangasinan for the first time since 2019.
Meralco took the first step in its bid to get back on track, with Newsome putting up a paltry 10 points despite 12 shooting on four-of-12, five rebounds and six assists in 38 minutes.
Newsome had some extended playing time with the injury, with Aaron Blackout and Chris Banchero, the top local scorer with 17, dealing with pain in the second half.
“He came in and did a great job of holding down the fort for us, played good defense and controlled the team offensively,” the Bolts mentor said.
Meralco’s redemption tour also includes KJ McDaniels, who has been in terrific form after appearing in the last six Commissioner’s Cup games in place of the ineffective Johnny O’Bryant.
McDaniels also gave the Bolts reasons to be confident about their chances. He finished with 27 points and 23 rebounds, finishing with a pair of dunks in the fourth quarter when the game was already in the bag.
A Rain or Shine defeat that certainly disappointed coach Ying Guiao marred the return of James Yap who surprised everyone with his production.
Yap came off the bench to score 12 of his 14 points in the second quarter, including a three-pointer with 0.8 seconds left that tied the game at 54. INQ
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