MERALCO isn’t in the mood to celebrate its huge victory over deposed PBA Philippine Cup champion Purefoods for too long.
Awaiting the Bolts in the next round of the playoffs is third seed Alaska Aces, a team which dealt Meralco a terrible beating in their lone elimination round encounter.
“You know what happened the last time we played them,” Black told sportswriters while letting out a loud laugh following Meralco’s 77-65 win over the Hotshots on Thursday night at the Astrodome.
“You guys can remember that.”
Of course, everybody did.
In what came to be remembered as the ‘Halloween Massacre,' the Bolts had a horror game against the Aces, to whom they embarrassingly lost by 41 big points, 105-64.
Now, Meralco tries to put behind it the sorry experience as it faces Alaska once again in a knockout game for a berth in the all-Filipino Cup semifinals.
“Hopefully, we are a better team now and we can play them better now. But for the next, say, 12 hours, we are going to enjoy this victory,” said Black, moments after the victory that ended Purefoods’ drive for a fifth straight league title.
Jared Dillinger said the Bolts are not contented just making it past Purefoods.
“It’s definitely a sigh of relief. But we are not in the semifinals yet. We want to enter the Final Four and we still have Alaska,” said the Gilas Pilipinas mainstay.
Like Black, Dillinger said the Bolts’ 41-point loss to the Aces in the elimination round still haunts him, which is why the players were reminded quickly to keep their emotions in check shortly after the big win over Purefoods.
“From what I remember, they beat us by 41 points. Alaska is a good team. We are going to celebrate but when tomorrow (Friday) comes, we are going to focus on Alaska,” he said.
Dillinger, who scored a team-high 14 points against the Hotshots, expressed satisfaction with the way the team has embraced Black’s philosophy to play hard defense this conference, which is exactly the same style of play it will show against the Aces.
“I’m proud of the team from top to bottom - players, coaching staff, practice players - who put the effort to make this work. Everybody is happy,” Dillinger said.
“Whether we struggled or not, defense is still a priority. We’ve got a lot of defensive-minded guys. We are hard, gritty, and play with an annoying type of game that bothers other teams. We have to stick to that role.”