By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
WHEN the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) rolls out its Season 46 in April, expect the Meralco Bolts to go all out and try to make a strong run.
Coming off a successful showing in the lone PBA tournament last year where it broke through and made it all the way to the semifinals of the Philippine Cup for the first time, the Bolts look to take cue from it and reach for greater heights.
“I think we had a breakthrough last year. As you know, the All-Filipino [tournament] has always been our Achilles heel. We struggled every time it’s the All-Filipino, but last year, we came a basket or two away from beating would-be champion Ginebra in a very tight series,” said Al Panlilio, Meralco governor in the PBA Board, in the online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum early this week.
“We hope to develop and become better just like any team should. We’ll continue to compete and go for our goals and I believe under Coach Norman (Black), we will always compete,” he added.
In last year’s Philippine Cup, done in a “bubble setup” at Clark City in Angeles, Pampanga, because of the coronavirus pandemic, Meralco had it strong.
It finished the eliminations with a 7-4 record, good for fifth spot, before bucking a twice-to-win disadvantage in the quarterfinals against powerhouse San Miguel.
The Bolts took on Barangay Ginebra in the best-of-five semifinals and made the latter sweat, forcing the Kings to a sudden death Game Five.
Bannering the spirited charge for the team were Chris Newsome, Raymond Almazan, Cliff Hodge, Bong Quinto, Reynel Hugnatan, Allein Maliksi, Baser Amer, and Aaron Black, who was eventually named outstanding rookie of the tournament.
To prepare for the upcoming season of the PBA, Meralco has moved to retain its core of players while fortifying it roster by signing Noy Baclao, Jammer Jamito, and Mike Cañete to contracts.
The Bolts also traded for Mac Belo from the Blackwater Elite to give their frontcourt more firepower in exchange for point guard Amer.
Mr. Belo averaged 11.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and an assist per game in the bubble.
Meralco, too, seeks to shore up its team through the rookie draft slated for March 14. It holds the ninth pick in the first round.
The team has begun group workouts this week at the Meralco Gym after fulfilling health and safety requirements, including swab testing, and getting the go signal from the league and government authorities.