Norman Black offers no excuses on first loss, but says Meralco missed defense of injured Cliff Hodge
Meralco coach Norman Black argues his case with the ref as his best defender Cliff Hodge was reduced to a spectator role due to an injury. Jerome Ascano

THE absence of injured Cliff Hodge was badly felt by Meralco in its loss against NLEX in the PBA Governors Cup Sunday especially for a team that thrives well on defense.

Hodge sat on the Bolts’ bench wearing a walking boot after suffering a severe ankle sprain in the team’s runaway win over KIA exactly a week ago.

Without their best defensive player, the Bolts suffered their first loss in five games in the season-ending tournament, 100-94, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“Cliff Hodge was not around tonight. He was our best defender,” admitted coach Norman Black afterwards.

“We can do a lot defensively if he’s there.”

[See NLEX gets back on winning track by dealing Meralco its first loss]

But the veteran mentor that he is, Black is not making excuses.

He said turnovers and a few mental breakdowns on offense down the stretch proved costly for Meralco, which fell to a 4-1 card overall for solo third place.

The champion coach also acknowledged the steady plays of Kevin Alas for NLEX in the payoff period.

“Alas played well in the fourth quarter and made some tough shots. We did not defend him very well,” said Black of the third year guard from Letran, who scored 11 of his 21 points in the final quarter.

“We played pretty well for the most part of the game, we just didn’t have it in the last three or four minutes.”

The Meralco coach is hoping Hodge would be missing just Sunday’s game, although he’s not sure when the do-it-all forward can really come back.

In the meantime that he’s not around, Black hopes the rest of the Bolts would do their own share at the defensive end.

“”We’ll just try to do the best of what we have,” said Black.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos