For Meralco coach Norman Black, veteran forward Reynel Hugnatan’s transformation from a reliable post player to outside shooter is no fluke.
And Game 3 on Wednesday night was proof of Black’s claim.
With Ginebra employing the zone defense in an effort to prevent Meralco import Allen Durham from getting buckets inside, the left-handed Hugnatan rained down three triples inside the last three minutes as the Bolts escaped, 107-103 to secure a 2-1 lead in their PBA Governors Cup Finals series.
The 6-foot-4 Hugnatan, known for his spin moves around the painted area, was the recipient of Durham and rookie Chris Newsome’s kick-out passes as he went on to finish with 17 points in Game 3.
“He did against TNT, right? He did it again tonight, so definitely it’s not a fluke,” Black said, referring to the former University of Manila Hawk’s triples down the stretch.
“Those were huge three-point shots that he made.”
Black said the 37-year-old Hugnatan’s threes were one of the reasons why the Bolts are in the Finals for the first time in franchise history.
And the one-time PBA Grand Slam champion coach said he has no intention of stopping Hugnatan from knocking down the threes when open.
“I’m just gonna let him (Hugnatan) keep taking them (three-points) because that’s one of the main reasons why we’re here in the Finals, and one of the main reasons why we’re 2-1 in the Finals now,” explained the 58-year-old Meralco coach.
Black added that Hugnatan’s three-point shooting definitely eases the pressure from Durham, who easily invites Ginebra’s double-teaming defense in the title series.
“When he (Hugnatan) makes those shots, he eases the pressure off Durham and he make it difficult for them (Kings) to double team,” he said.
For Hugnatan, Black’s trust in his newfound weapon is what helps in his radical transformation this conference.
“Thankful din ako kay coach Norman na binibigyan niya ako ng tiwala sa shooting ko at tumira. Lagi akong sinasabihan na just keep shooting at pati ng mga teammates ko, sinasabihan ako,” Hugnatan said after the game.
Hugnatan is averaging 13.6 points and 6.67 rebounds, while norming 1.67 made three-point shots in the Finals.
PBA chief statistician Fidel Mangonon said before the start of the season-ending conference, Hugnatan only made 14 triples in his entire PBA career since 2003. But by the end of Game 3, he already made 17 three-pointers this conference. – Richard Dy and Jason Mercene