DELROY James scored the final basket of the game, converting a lay-up that gave Meralco the four-point lead and the cushion it needed to pick up the victory over San Miguel on Wednesday.
Before the basket, however, Meralco coach Norman Black was trying to call a timeout to set up a play. James though insisted to continue on with the possession and waved off Black’s attempt to call a timeout.
“I was trying to get Baser back in the game,” Black explained. “He was our best foul shooter and I want to make sure that our best foul shooters are on the floor in case they foul us.”
In hindsight, it was one of the best decisions the team made in the game.
“But he waved me off and I listened to him. He is out there on the court. He has the better feel of what’s going on in the court and in the game. He was able to produce that big basket down the stretch to really help us,” said Black.
Black said he had enough trust in James to make the right decision for the team since he was the one who is on the floor.
“I’m sure as a professional player playing in the Philippines, he wants to stay to play and I think in that situation, as a coach, you do the right thing which is call a timeout, set up a play, and make sure you get a good shot.
“But at the same time, you also want to listen to your players, particularly your best player which he is in my team. That was his call, I listened to him, and he was able to produce,” said Black.
The 32-year-old James finished with 34 points, five rebounds, six assists, four steals, and two blocks including the final six points of the match to pull off the 95-91 win over San Miguel, arranging a playoff match for the eighth seed with Alaska in the quarterfinals.
James explained why he waved off Black’s timeout.
“It was a momentum thing. It was like we will probably call a timeout to try to get me the best shot but I felt that at that moment, that was the shot I think I could knock (down). I was in the groove to make something happen for the team,” said James.
James said he was determined to give the team the victory – his first since replacing Gani Lawal – after Meralco bowed to Magnolia in an out-of-town game in Zamboanga City
“That’s what it is for. It is my first win. I felt last game was a tough game because it felt like a win but we lost. Felt like a win because I felt our team played really well but we lost,” James said.
Black said James has been making big plays for the Bolts even before his late baskets that pulled his team to victory.
“He is a professional player. He is 32 years old. He has played all over the world. It wasn’t just that play that he made that was a key play for us. Even a couple of plays before, he took it upon himself to go one-on-one and was able to finish the play and score.