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PBA: Bolts look ready to stop SMB

By Jerome Lagunzad

San Miguel Beer’s validation to its greatness will have to go through a shrewd tactician who has reached the dream destination in impressive fashion.

And it’s not just Barangay Ginebra’s Tim Cone, the pro league’s winningest mentor with 19 titles – including a pair of Grand Slam runs with Alaska and San Mig Coffee (currently known Star) – tucked under his belt.

Cone’s fellow American, Norman Black of Meralco, is looming as another big stumbling block for the powerhouse Beermen, an equally potent team that the former two-time PBA Best Import winner steered to the Invitational Conference title in 1982 – as a player – and the pro league’s third Grand Slam overall in 1989 – as a coach.

And the Bolts, bannered by reigning Best Import Allen Durham and a vastly-improving youthful core, appear to have enough firepower to match up with the Beermen’s fearsome unit built around reigning three-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo and a highly-talented backcourt.

“Overall, it’s just a great start for us,” Black, 59, admitted on Sunday night after Meralco earned some measure of revenge against defending champion Barangay Ginebra 93-78 in rematch of last year’s finals in the PBA Governors’ Cup.

Not only the victory – its second straight in three days following a dominant 107-78 beating of Blackwater last Friday night – allowed Meralco to gain a share of the early lead with upstart Phoenix, but it further underscored its readiness to make another deep playoff run.

The Bolts, however, are not too eager to look that far ahead, clearly aware that the road remains rough and rock-strewn.

“It’s our second win and we’re happy to move on and play Rain or Shine (on Saturday),” added Black.

Wingman Jared Dillinger, who’s emerging as one of Meralco’s main source of offensive energy with an average of 15.5 points per game so far, echoed Black’s observation.

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