AFTER it came a win short of making the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals, Meralco hopes to complete unfinished business in the season-ending Governors Cup when help is expected to come the Bolts’ way.
Coach Ryan Gregorio expressed confidence veteran playmaker Mike Cortez could finally return to action in the third conference after being sidelined by an injury shortly after being acquired by the Bolts from Air21 in exchange for the rights to Asi Taulava.
Downed by a meniscus tear on his right knee, Cortez failed to play for the entire mid-season tournament where the Bolts failed to reach the semifinals after losing in overtime to Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in their do-or-die encounter on Saturday, 97-96.
However, Gregorio hopes Cortez's return will address one of the holes in Meralco's lineup when the Governors Cup unfolds next month.
“We really lacked a stable guard and that was supposed to be Mike Cortez,” said Gregorio of the player known as `Cool Cat.' “So next conference, I’m hoping Mike can play because I traded for him because he’s stable, knows how to win, been there and done that.”
Meralco’s best finish in its 10-conference existence happened in last season’s Governors Cup when the Bolts placed third after making it to the Final Four for the first time in franchise history.
As for the team’s latest playoff mishap, Gregorio said it is but part of the Bolts’ continuing “basketball education” in the franchise’s continuous search for a first ever PBA title.
The Bolts went up 1-0 against Rain or Shine in their quarterfinals series, but allowed the Elasto Painters to bounce back as Jared Dillinger battled a bad back in Game Three.
“For some reasons, something always happens. It was just unfortunate that JD (Jared Dillinger) wasn’t healthy,” said Gregorio. “But we can’t look back. We just have to move forward.”
“But one good thing is we played hard and did not give up in the end. It’s just that in the end, we lost, and it’s probably part of our basketball education.”
As the team takes a break for the next few days, Gregorio, a three-time Coach of the Year awardee, said he’ll start burning the lines to look for the Bolts’ import for the season-ending conference, which has a height limit of 6-foot-5.