The Meralco Bolts and the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Gin Kings always seem to bump into each other during the postseason of PBA conferences. Both teams squaring off in high stakes affairs is not uncommon, yet the same can be said for how the Bolts usually and unfortunately end up on the wrong side of things.
With Meralco and the Gin Kings squaring off in the quarterfinals of the 2022 Honda PBA Philippine Cup, it would be fair to say the advantage would be with Ginebra, who finished higher in the team standings and have Gin Kings head coach Tim Cone back from his stint with the Miami Heat in the 2022 NBA Summer League.
When Game 1 ended, though, it was the Bolts who came away with the victory thanks in large part to Aaron Black. Black and Meralco stayed in stride with the Gin Kings for much of the first quarter until they went on an 11-4 run that broke a 21-all tie and handed the Bolts a 32-25 lead at the end of the opening quarter. Meralco slowly but surely added to the lead, which grew to as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter, by being more physical on both ends of the floor.
Black led the Bolts with 25 points, making 62 percent of his field goal attempts as the Filipino-American scored on the Ginebra defense in a variety of ways.
Even when the Gin Kings threatened to come back in the second half, Black was there to hit some timely baskets in the 93-82 win.
It has so far been great to see Black’s growth as a player since entering the PBA in 2019. The 2020 PBA Outstanding Rookie is definitely not a one-trick pony as he can go deep into his bag when scoring over defenders of varying heights. Talk of him being Meralco head coach Norman Black’s son has diminished with his play and he’s clearly his own man.
The 25-years old’s minutes have gone up significantly in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup, with his efficiency from the field getting better with more chances. Defenses can at times be tough to read and he has taken what the defense has given him and it has led to good results for both him and his team. To say Black’s game has already matured may be a reach at this point, as he has a whole lot of basketball ahead of him. However, one has to appreciate the patience and control he has demonstrated on the court.
Black’s ability to share playmaking duties with the likes of Chris Newsome and Chris Banchero has not only contributed to the Bolts emerging as the fourth-best team in the All-Filipino conference in terms of assists per game (22.09), but it has also made the Meralco offense a multifaceted attack. Having multiple and very capable ball handlers also ensures the sustainability of the offense even when the personnel on the court changes and that is certainly welcome against deeper and talented teams.
Game 2 will see some changes to Ginebra’s approach on the defensive end, and Black will be a marked man when both teams return to action on Friday. Limiting him won’t just be from a scoring standpoint as his ability to move the ball around and get others involved could open up more opportunities. Basketball is a game of maximizing chances and reducing those opportunities usually ends in a favorable outcome.
The historical matchup Meralco Bolts-Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Gin Kings has generally been a one-sided affair, and while Aaron Black has experienced his fair share of heartbreaks during that saga, he is on the brink of flipping that script for him and the Bolts.
This best-of-three quarterfinal series is far from over, but Black and the Bolts have gotten a head start towards what will hopefully be another great and long run in the 2022 Honda PBA Philippine Cup Playoffs.