(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second of a series of PBA yearenders where we recap each team’s season and grade their performance from A to D.)
FOR the first time since joining the PBA as an expansion team four years ago, Blackwater made quite a noise in 2018, particularly in the latter part of the year. We recap the Elite's year.
New era for Blackwater
The Elite finally made a coaching change in 2018 as Leo Isaac, the only coach the team had since joining the PBA in 2014, was replaced by Bong Ramos. The change came midway through the Commissioner’s Cup, where the team eventually went 1-10.
Best start in franchise history
Following one of its worst conferences, Blackwater went 4-0 to begin the Governors’ Cup while beating traditional powers TNT and San Miguel. The Elite also picked up a rare win over Barangay Ginebra in a game where Paul Zamar, a midseason acquisition following his stint with the Asean Basketball League, hit a game-winner against the team that drafted him but left Zamar unsigned.
Breakthrough quarterfinal stint
After that sizzling start to the conference, the Elite, led by import Henry Walker and Poy Erram, eventually clinched a place in the quarterfinals as the fifth seed, coming one victory short of a twice-to-beat incentive in the playoffs. Blackwater lost to eventual champion Magnolia in the quarterfinals.
Erram makes it to Team Pilipinas
As a testament to the banner year for the franchise, Poy Erram turned heads and was eventually tapped by head coach Yeng Guiao for the Team Pilipinas side that finished fifth in the Asian Games. Erram also joined saw action for the national team in the Fiba Basketball World Cup Asian qualifiers.
Erram traded. Parks next?
After a breakthrough year, Blackwater, oddly, chose to break up its core by trading Erram to NLEX for rookies Paul Desiderio and Abu Tratter. Paul Zamar was also dealt to San Miguel for future draft picks. The Elite made Bobby Ray Parks Jr. the second overall pick in the draft, but rumors persist that he will be sent to Meralco in a three-team trade that will bring Jericho Cruz and Brian Heruela to the Blackwater side.
Blackwater’s rise in the Governors’ Cup was definitely one of the feel-good stories of 2018 in the PBA. It remains to be seen, though, how the Elite can sustain the momentum after breaking up the core that brought the team to new heights this year.