Monday , June 18, 2018

Mendoza: Black reigns as comeback coach

NORMAN Black has become the comeback coach in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

First, he steered Meralco to a come-from-behind victory against San Miguel Beer.

Behind by 18 points, Black bashed his Bolts for being so lazy in defense. To his pleasant surprise, Black’s boys responded beautifully.

Meralco, crushing SMB’s vaunted offense with a crumbling defense in the homestretch, went on to snatch a 104-101 triumph from the so-called jaws of defeat.

The win gave Meralco the luxury of a twice-to-beat advantage entering the quarterfinals.

And, woefully enough for the Beermen, the loss sort of signaled SMB’s inglorious exit as the back-to-back conference champion was a mere fraction of its deadly self when it next played Barangay Ginebra.

Playing its most disorganized game ever this year, SMB bowed to Ginebra by an unbelievable 30 points to bid farewell to its Grand Slam dreams in a most frustrating ending to a fairy tale ride wrapped in unbridled rhapsody.

But if there was one shining side to Ginebra’s murderous win over SMB, it is that even as they are sister-teams, the Gin Kings never gave quarters to the Beermen.

Ginebra had a twice-to-beat margin, and losing Game One to SMB would have meant a winner-take-all in Game 2. That’d be still fair and square in the name of kinship.

But no. Ginebra was business as usual, proof once more that in the PBA, hanky-panky does not exist. The reason the league’s staying power has been that solid all throughout its 42-year existence.

But back to Black.

Against Blackwater, Black survived the scare of a Game One loss, piloting his Bolts to a semifinal-clinching win with a convincing Game Two victory over the Elite.

And then on Sunday night in Binan, Laguna, Black bailed his Bolts out from a 17-point deficit to defeat Star in Game One of their semifinal opener.

That was simply reminiscent of Meralco’s come-from-behind win over SMB. This time, the Bolts rallied mightily with a crippling 12-0 windup to win, 72-66.

Is it getting to be a habit, this Black tendency to survive crisis after crisis?

No doubt Black’s having a ball right now. Well, we’ll see if it continues that way on Tuesday, when Meralco faces Star in Game Two of their best-of-five semis.