ANTIPOLO City – Despite the loss Meralco suffered at the hands of reigning PBA Philippine Cup champion San Miguel, Norman Black was one proud coach after seeing the Bolts give the powerhouse team a big scare Wednesday night at the Ynares Center here.
The Bolts fell by as many as 22 points in the second quarter, but kept the Beermen on the edge of their seats after mounting a huge comeback in the second half only to fall short in the end, 103-97.
Black was definitely proud of the effort especially with Meralco playing without three of its injured starters in Ranidel de Ocampo, Cliff Hodge, and Jared Dillinger.
The Meralco coach said Dillinger was kept out of the lineup after complaining about a tightness in his hamstring two days before the game against the three-time defending champion.
“I’m pretty proud of my players tonight. They came out and fought despite the fact that were pretty much undermanned,” he said afterwards.
“We lost JD Dillinger today and that really hurt us a lot,” Black stressed. “But we kept fighting and we gave ourselves a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.”
Trailing 33-55 late in the first half, the Bolts found a spark in Mike Tolomia in the third quarter when the sophomore guard erupted for 15 of his team-high 21 points to lead Meralco back into the game.
But the experienced team that it is, the Beermen weathered the storm and coasted to their second straight win to tie NLEX for a share of the early lead.
“You have to give credit to San Miguel. They’re really tough, they’re very talented, they can make big shots, and they have June Mar Fajardo, which helps a lot,” said Black.
“When they get into trouble, they just pass the ball to him, and he normally delivers.”
Deliver Fajardo did as the four-time league MVP fired 26 points – 13 of them in the fourth quarter – to go with nine rebounds as he complemented the game-high 29 points of teammate Alex Cabagnot.
Still, Black says Meralco showed a lot of positives out of its first loss in two outings this conference.
“We fought hard. We did a lot of things we want to accomplish,” said the champion mentor.
“We made a lot of threes which is something we want to do every game, and we had a lot of fastbreak points which is something we also want to do. We did a lot of things that we said we want to do before the game despite the fact that we’re undermanned.”