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Black says key is outside shooting

MANILA, Philippines — Meralco coach Norman Black knows what it takes to bring down Barangay Ginebra and plans to use the same formula that won Game 3 for the Bolts in trying to level the PBA Governors Cup Finals at 2-2 in Game 4 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum tonight.

“The turning point was our ability to make some perimeter shots led by Reynel (Hugnatan),” Black said. “They’ve been focusing their defense on AD (Allen Durham) in the paint while daring us to take outside shots. In the early rounds, we shot well but we’ve been struggling in the Finals.”

Before the start of the Finals, Meralco was No. 1 in three point shooting in the league at 37 percent. But in Game 1, the Bolts shot 24 percent from beyond the arc in Ginebra’s 102-87 win and in Game 2, it dropped to 22 percent as the Barangay made it two in a row, 86-76. In Game 3 last Wednesday, Meralco hit 35 percent on 11-of-31 connections with Hugnatan knocking down 7-of-12, Anjo Caram 2-of-2, Garvo Lanete 1-of-3 and Jared Dillinger 1-of-4.

 Black said veteran Ranidel de Ocampo will be out for at least four weeks to recover from the left calf strain he sustained after 3:35 in the first period of Game 3. De Ocampo’s absence paved the way for Hugnatan’s breakout as he collected 22 points and five rebounds in 38:42 minutes. In the first two games of the Finals, Hugnatan scored only two points in a total of 12:35 minutes.

Meralco won Game 3 despite starting point guard Baser Amer going scoreless. Amer, who was the Bolts’ leading local scorer up to the semifinals with a 14.3 clip, went 0-of-6 from the field in 13:25 minutes. Black said he’s not giving up on Amer. “I’ll just continue to encourage Baser to go out and do his best to help our team to win,” he said. “LA (Tenorio) has gotten the better of that match-up but for us to have a chance, we just need Baser to go out and play his game and he should be okay.”

Amer, for his part, vowed to get back on track. “I’m happy we got the win in Game 3,” he said. “Basketball is a team sport. Even if I score 20 points and we lose, that’s not good. Yes, I had a bad game but I was happy for Anjo (Caram) and Chris (Newsome) because they stepped up for my lackluster performance. It’s my job to do better and I will in the upcoming games.” Caram, who is Amer’s backup, came off the bench to hit seven points, including two triples, in the first period. Newsome also shot seven points, including 5-of-6 from the line.

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Meralco senior vice president and the team’s PBA governor Al Panlilio said the Bolts were never discouraged after Ginebra built a 2-0 series lead. “We all felt we were behind, 0-2, but not out,” he said. “As long as we continue playing hard and we stay together, we’ll be fine and we’ll compete. We almost had Game 2 except for the lapses in the end. We played well in Game 3 for the win. We just have to take it one game at a time and trust the process.”

The Bolts are dedicating the quest for their first-ever PBA crown to Panlilio who recently underwent two major surgeries in beating renal cancer. Panlilio was in the building for Games 2 and 3 as Meralco’s rallying point.

In Game 2, Ginebra had more gas in the tank in the last 5:56 as it hammered Meralco with a 17-1 finishing kick. The Bolts missed eight three-point shots, three from two-point distance and three free throws in the stretch. Meralco’s Cliff Hodge scored to pull the Bolts ahead, 75-69, with 5:56 left then came the meltdown.  In Game 3, it was the other way around as Meralco detonated a 19-4 closing bomb. Durham touched off an 11-0 surge after Japeth Aguilar completed a three-point play for a 77-75 Ginebra lead. With 2:44 left, Meralco raced to an 86-77 advantage on the heels of the 11-0 burst.

Durham saved his best for last in Game 3 as he torched Ginebra for 13 of his 38 points in the fourth period. In Game 2, Durham was held to only two points in the payoff quarter. Defense was vital for Meralco in Game 3 as the Bolts held Ginebra to 81 points, 34 in the second half. In the first two games, Ginebra averaged 94 points. Before the Finals, Meralco held opponents to an average of 85.8 points in 13 wins and gave up 101.7 a game in three losses. The Bolts went back to defensive basics to hack out the decision in Game 3.

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