Meralco eager to take lessons, move on from 41-point thrashing
MANILA, Philippines – It’s hard to forget a loss. It’s even harder to forget a 41-point beating.
The Meralco Bolts have 5 days to bury their regretful 105-64 defeat at the hands of the heady Alaska Aces Friday, October 31. Otherwise, they must force themselves to face the NLEX Road Warriors, who could only be very eager to pounce on their weakened sister team.
“As much as this hurts, we have to forget about it and learn from it,” was how forward Jared Dillinger described his team’s loss.
“It was a pretty bad loss today,” added head coach Norman Black, a known champion in his more than two decades coaching in the PBA and especially during his time in the collegiate ranks.
The sweet-shooting Gary David admitted the loss was an “embarrassment” and it truly frustrated the team.
But for the endless ways a defeat by that huge margin can be described, and for the countless nagging thoughts the memory of that game can trigger, Meralco is choosing to take one step forward and bring the lessons with them.
They took that first step with a closed door post-game talk that lasted nearly two hours. The team examined its flaws, shortcomings, errors, and reminded themselves of their goal.
“They pressed us a lot, we couldn’t break their press. Defensively, we relaxed today, we were a step slow. We just thoroughly got outplayed,” Black said what he felt went wrong. “Alaska looks like a really well-conditioned team and they’re on top of their game.”
The Aces came out firing to open the contest and although the Bolts stayed within a considerable distance, they never threatened after Alaska established a 54-37 halftime lead.
Alaska was simply firing on all cylinders Friday night, executing a pristine pressure defense that permanently unnerved Meralco.
It was also a good night offensively for the Aces, who dropped 10-of-21 three-point bombs on their irresponsive opponents, all while shooting 62% of their two-point field goals. Every player fielded in by coach Alex Compton scored at least two points as the Alaska bench accounted for 78 of the team’s output. Alaska’s total assists amounted to 30.
The win somehow avenged their 51-point loss to Rain or Shine in the 2014 Governors’ Cup, which, for the Painters, went down in history as the fourth most lopsided win in the PBA. For Alaska, it was a franchise worst losing margin.
But after Friday night’s triumph, this same Alaska team atoned for that when they notched the franchise’s biggest win margin since their 119-71 victory over Tanduay in the 2000 Commissioner’s Cup, per PBA Chief Statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
On the other hand, Meralco was a paltry 32% from the field and had only 12 team assists. They had nearly just as many three-point attempts as Alaska but went only two-of-20.
“We just, plain and simple, didn’t match the energy and intensity that Alaska came out with,” lamented Dillinger, who had 9 points on 3-of-6 field goals along with 4 rebounds.
“We just didn’t play with any effort and that’s the most disappointing thing right now. Myself included, there was no specific one guy at fault. It was everyone.”
No defensive identity yet
Before the start of the season, Black saw flashes of defensive brilliance in the team. And Black, who values defense more than anything, immediately wanted to turn a struggling Meralco into a defensive machine.
“What I’m trying to do is to make them more of a defensive unit,” he said before the conference kicked off. “Individually we’re very good defensively.”
Against Alaska, however, Meralco was nowhere near the defense-minded team they wanted to become.
“Identity-wise, we wanted to become a defensive team but we didn’t do that,” said Meralco assistant coach Luigi Trillo.
All the Bolts can do is leave behind the 41-point loss that became the second worst losing margin in franchise history, according to Mangonon. The first being a 139-95 rout courtesy of Rain or Shine in the 2012 Philippine Cup.
“There was a lot of stuff that dealt with what we needed to do as a team. We had to address some issues that needed to be brought up. We needed really to reiterate why we are here,” Dillinger shared what the team talked about after the game.
“We’re professionals in the PBA. There’s gonna be adveristy along the way but I think the most important thing is we gotta stay together through the good times and the bad. There was a lot of talking but it’s more important to see what we’re gonna look like through actions.”
Black is also choosing to look at the silver lining. With time, perhaps Meralco, like Alaska, can vindicate themselves and give the franchise a record it can be proud of.
“Nobody is happy when you lose by 40 points. But what can you do about it? It’s finished, it’s over,” he said.
“You have to look forward to the next game and try to fix what’s wrong, stay positive as much as possible and move on.” – Rappler.com