MANILA, Philippines – Meralco Bolts guard Chris Banchero once again proved that he is indeed one of the best acquisitions of the PBA’s free agency period in the midst of the 2022 Governors’ Cup.
Just in his third game for his new team, the Filipino-Italian veteran sank the game-winning layup after a nifty backdoor cut off an inbound pass from teammate Bong Quinto to help Meralco seal a 93-88 win over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Sunday, February 20.
Although head coach Norman Black wanted a different outcome for his endgame play, he was nonetheless pleased that everything worked out well for his team, and that everyone involved played their part effectively to get the win.
“I was hoping we would get it in a lot earlier than that. But I do give Bong Quinto credit for not panicking, and he just kept holding the ball until he saw the right guy,” Black said after the game.
“Chris made the correct cut to the basket. I thought Rain or Shine played pretty good defense in our out of bounds at the end of the game, but it was just a heads-up play by Bong Quinto, and a great pass.”
The veteran tactician also gave props to Allein Maliksi and Raymond Almazan, two key cogs in his trademark balanced rotation.
“[Raymond] gave us a big lift today, offensively. I talked to him in practice yesterday, and I asked him just to slow down, just a little bit,” Black continued.
“Sometimes, he gets the ball in the paint, and he rushes it, and he loses the basketball, or he misses a pretty easy shot underneath. I thought today he really took his time, and was very deliberate around the basket.”
Almazan scored a conference-high 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting against Rain or Shine, and still had his usual peripheral contributions of 7 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block in just 24 minutes. Maliksi, meanwhile, led all locals with 19 markers.
Banchero scattered 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in 32 minutes off the bench, while Quinto played 20 quality minutes, and had 2 markers, 3 boards, 2 dimes, and 1 steal.
Thanks to contributions across the board from numerous players, Meralco still sits in second place in the conference with a 5-1 record, and is almost guaranteed a quarterfinals berth barring a monumental collapse in the latter half of the elimination round.
The Bolts look to continue their strong push as they face the underwhelming Terrafirma Dyip on Thursday, February 24, 3 pm, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City. – Rappler.com