Meralco eyes good start, strong finish as it faces Blackwater in Govs’ Cup debut

Norman Black isn’t looking back after Meralco’s quarterfinal debacle at the hands of eventual PBA Commissioner’s Cup runner-up and sister team TNT.

Instead, the multi-titled PBA mentor considers the Governors’ Cup a way to start fresh when the Bolts take on the Blackwater Elite in the opening game on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“We are looking forward to getting started this conference,” Black said, heading to their 4:15 p.m. collision with the Elite.

“Our focus will be maintaining the improvement we made on defense last conference while trying to be more efficient on the offensive end of the court.”

Meralco surprised everyone after placing a strong second in the Governors’ Cup last season, losing to Ginebra, 4-2 in the PBA Finals after Justin Brownlee nailed the game-winning three-point shot in Game 6.

But the Bolts have brought back Allen Durham, the man mainly responsible for helping Meralco reach the Finals fir the first time ever in franchise history.

And Black admitted Durham’s presence alone gives his team the much-needed lift.

“Having Allen Durham back in the team gives us a lot of optimism and should give us a big lift,” added the 1-time PBA Grand Slam coach.

The Elite though are raring to get over the hump as well having tied last in the Commissioner’s Cup with their 2-9 card to be in the same boat with the NLEX Road Warriors.

Leading Blackwater’s playoff hopes is import Trevis Simpson, a known high-leaper, who averaged 10.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 24 games with Hyeres Toulon Var Basket in France.

The 25-year-old UNC-Greenboro stalwart also played in Greece in 2014 and 2015, before seeing action for Kataja Basket of Finland for the 2015–16 season, where in 39 games, he averaged 18.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

The Elite will still be missing young forward Art Dela Cruz, still recovering from an Achilles heel injury, while rookie Mac Belo is currently on loan at Gilas, which is playing in the William Jones Cup.

The good news is, young slotman JP Erram is healthy and ready to help after tearing his ACL (anterior cruciaate ligament) in his knee last year.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava

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