In the Battle of the Trainers, Norman Black got checkmate

CHICAGO — With the explicit goal of shutting down an opposing team’s most powerful scorer, box-and-1 is a defensive ploy as old as basketball.

Meralco unleashed that net on five-star import Shabazz Muhammad, who went down a conference-high 57 points to lead San Miguel to a 115-110 triumph in the teams’ first meeting on March 5. .

This time, with a semi-final spot on the line, the Bolts draped the box-on-1 over Muhammad with Chris Newsome, Bong Quinto and Cliff Hodge acting as pursuers while the other Bolts formed a zone to ward off the former explosive NBA Timberwolf out of the way.

It worked wonders and Shabazz was limited to 24 harmless points on just 8 of 19 shots from the field. The famed UCLA alum and CBA star also clicked on all six of his 3-point attempts.

MERALCO 100. SAN MIGUEL 85.

“It was tough. They did a great job on the box-and-1 and it kinda tired me out,” Shabazz told me via text after San Miguel’s season ended with a stunning knockout of 15 dots.

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In addition to incapacitating Muhammad, Meralco also engineered a defensive scheme that rotated three big players into six-time double-team MVP June Mar Fajardo, who was handcuffed to a rather tame 12-point, 12-rebound effort.

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Meralco’s third defensive set was to keep the ball out of Muhammad’s hands, which wrecked San Miguel’s offense and resulted in a horrific 32 of 83 shots from the field (38%) and a pathetic 6 of 27 on 3 (22 percent). ).

How perfectly these three defensive strategies worked does not require an investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

“My players have done a great job executing our game plan,” Meralco head coach Norman Black told me on the phone on his victorious return home.

THE LOSS OF SAN MIGUEL WAS A STRONG REMINDER THAT POWERFUL TEAMS CANNOT BRING A TOP-LEVEL IMPORT, $70,000 A MONTH ON SHORT NOTICE AND THINK THAT’S ENOUGH TO WIN A TITLE.

Chemistry is important.

While San Miguel played like strangers in a pickup game, the Bolts performed like an orchestra, thanks to countless hours of practice together since early December when their import, Tony Bishop, first arrived.

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Bishop closed in on the Top Import award with another gem – 32 points, 16 rebounds and 4 cents.

“I’m going to TGIF (Pasig branch) to celebrate with my family,” he told me in a phone interview while praising his teammates, especially Chris Newsome, Quinto and Hodge.

Newsome scored 22 points, Chris Banchero and Raymond Almazan combined for 17, and the Bolts rained down 10 treys on the dazed and confused Beermen.

The Bolts are off to the Final Four again.

San Miguel, meanwhile, returns home.

UNFORTUNATELY THE BEERS COULD NOT SURVIVE LEO AUSTRIA.

Their inability to adapt to what Meralco was putting them through in defense reflected poorly on the limitations of the coaching staff.

Clean passing, keeping the wings wide and plenty of dribbling penetration could have taken much of the heat away from the heavily covered Shabazz.

Terrence Romeo did his best to save the sinking ship but he only managed 7 of 21 shots for 17 points in 31 minutes of action.

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No thanks to the bite of the D of Meralco, Romeo will suffer another tragedy.

It was the perfect setting for Simon Enciso to shine with his ability to create, but he lingered on the bench alongside Von Pessumal, who also recorded a Did Not Play (DNP).

While Black used 10 players and kept his legs cool on the ground at all times, helping Meralco to a 21-point lead, Austria shortened their rotation to eight players, including their favorite former college player Jericho Cruz, who recorded 10 minutes and 42 seconds and had no points to show for it.

In a chess match between two coaches. Norman Black got checkmate.

I wonder when SMC manager Alfranchis Chua gets tired of hearing the phrase “better luck next conference” and finally decides that his flagship team might need a coaching overhaul.

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