LATE as his return may be, Jared Dillinger hopes to give Meralco a much-needed push in its desperate bid to make the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals.
Dillinger returned to active duty on Friday, and while not 100 percent healthy yet, he was good enough to contribute major minutes in helping the Bolts pull off an 82-72 upset of Rain or Shine at the Astrodome.
The big Fil-Am guard played for 27 minutes and finished with three points, five rebounds, and two assists in his first game back since re-injuring his hamstring shortly after the Bolts’ first game for the season.
But he shot a poor 1-9 from the field and committed three turnovers, proof that he has yet to regain his old playing form.
“It’s gonna take some time before I get my legs back, my rhythm back. Everything else will take some time,” said Dillinger, who missed Meralco’s last eight games.
Coach Norman Black however, acknowledged the return of Dillinger somewhat revitalized the Bolts both off and on the court.
“His absence has hurt us, but his presence really helped us tonight,” said the multi-titled mentor.
“To be honest with you, when he practiced the last three days, you could see that the level of our practice went up immediately,” Black admitted. “He’s a veteran player, he’s experienced, and he’s talented.”
The Bolts improved to 3-7 as they arrested a six-game losing skid. Mathematically, they’re still in contention for the eighth and last playoff berth, but can only hope other teams above them in the standings would lose their remaining games to get a shot at the playoffs.
Meralco will play Star – another team still fighting for a place in the eight-team quarterfinals – on January 28 for its final elimination round assignment.
“We’re not in control of our destiny anymore. Hopefully, we can beat Star but we’re gonna need some help from the other teams,” said Dillinger, 33.
“We’re not trying to think about making the playoffs, just trying to gain momentum, just trying to take it one game at a time, and try to think about the whole year.”