PBA: Black lives up to promise, powers Meralco to Game 7

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 15 2022 04:46 PM

 Aaron Black (center) took over Meralco in crunch time against the San Miguel Beermen. PBA Images.
Aaron Black (center) took over Meralco in crunch time against the San Miguel Beermen. PBA Images.

MANILA, Philippines -- With the Meralco Bolts on the brink of elimination, Aaron Black told his coach -- his father -- of his intent to take over the game, and vowed to "get it done."

The Bolts were down 90-80 with four-and-a-half minutes left in Game 6 of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series against the San Miguel Beermen on Sunday night. A loss would spell the end of their campaign in the All-Filipino Conference, and Black was determined not to let that happen.

"I was really determined kasi kung hindi kami manalo ngayon, uwi na kami eh. Our backs were against the wall," said the sophomore guard.

At that point, he told Meralco coach Norman Black that he wanted the ball in his hands to close out the game.

"He actually told me, 'Give me the ball and set pick-and-rolls and I'll get it done,' and he went out and did it," the elder Black recalled after the contest. "I'm really happy he was able to back up what he was saying out there on the basketball court."

Black assisted on a Cliff Hodge and-1 with 2:25 left that made it a 5-point game, 90-85. In Meralco's next possession, Black drilled a three-pointer to cut the deficit to two points, 90-88.

He fished for a foul on Simon Enciso and knocked down two free throws to tie the game at 90. And then, with just 31.5 seconds left, Black broke loose, thanks to a screen from Raymond Almazan, blew by June Mar Fajardo, then converted the layup that put Meralco ahead for good.

Black wound up scoring Meralco's final 11 points of the game, pushing the Bolts to a 96-92 win that sent the best-of-7 series to a do-or-die game on Wednesday. He finished with 17 points on 4-of-9 shooting, six assists, and five rebounds in 30 minutes.

"Our backs were against the wall. It wasn't just me, everybody on the team came ready to play today. San Miguel is a tough team. Credit to them," he said afterward.

"They had us in a hole the whole game, and I'm just thankful that we were able to come together as a team and come out with the win and live another day," Black added.

His father, Coach Norman, was impressed at the confidence displayed by Aaron, and proud that he fulfilled his promise. With his son leading the charge, Meralco ended the game on a blistering 16-2 run to steal the win.

"I'm really proud of Aaron, not just 'cause of tonight but where he's come from as a basketball player. I think he's improved a lot over the couple of years, and his career has been on the upward path here in the PBA," said Norman. 

"[At 90-80], that was around the time my point guard here told me he wanted to be put in some pick-and-rolls. He wanted to attack. That's basically what got us back into the game," he added.

The younger Black easily navigated San Miguel's pick-and-roll defense, dismissing Simon Enciso at the top and using his speed to get past the SMB bigs. On his go-ahead layup, he also drew a foul against CJ Perez and completed the three-point play.

"Aaron felt he could take his man off the dribble and he could get to the basket. He made those adjustments at the time, and it worked out for us because we slowly, gradually got back to the basketball game with that adjustment," Coach Norman noted.

Aaron, for his part, readily credited the Meralco bigs for their role in their comeback. While he took over on offense, his teammates shored up their defense in the final four-and-a-half minutes, where the Beermen could not buy a basket. 

"It wasn't only me, it was the guys who were screening for me -- sina Raymond (Almazan), sina Cliff (Hodge), sila 'yung nags-screen sa'kin kaya ako nao-open," he said.

"On defense, naka-stop kami as a team. I think in the Meralco family, we like to do things as a team. Without them, I wouldn't have been able to do that for our team," he added.

Meralco and San Miguel face off a final time on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum, with the winner advancing to play defending champion TNT Tropang GIGA in the All-Filipino finals. 

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