The Meralco Bolts, who were almost selected for the All-Filipino finals, return to action on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum when they play the NorthPort Batang Pier in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

The Bolts are releasing Johnny O’Bryant in the hopes that the 6-foot-9 import, who previously played for Charlotte, Milwaukee, and Denver in the NBA, would be the last piece they’ve been searching for to get them to the Promised Land.

Coach Norman Black of Meralco remarked, “If we can be strong enough to compete in the All-Filipino and then we can acquire a solid import, it would make a difference to bring us over the hump.”

“We just want to get a reliable guy, someone who can rebound the basketball and is strong both offensively and defensively. Our weakness is in the paint, therefore we don’t need a wingman in this situation; instead, we need a player who can play there “And Black remarked.

O’Bryant has received sound advice on the part he must play with the Bolts.

When the Bolts and the Batang Pier square off at 5:45 p.m., Prince Ibeh, a seasoned import, will be his first opponent.

When the midseason tournament returned in 2019, NorthPort, the No. 2 team in the eliminations from the previous Commissioner’s Cup, got off to a strong start by defeating Phoenix, 92-89, and then nearly missing an upset of the Bay Area Dragons, 105-104.

When the Dragons trailed 104-102 with 1:05 remaining after consecutive baskets by Robert Bolick and Roi Sumang, the Batang Pier not only had themselves in the middle of the action but were also in prime position to produce the shock.

However, Arwind Santos and Sumang of NorthPort missed the insurance shots, giving Bay Area some relief. The Dragons managed to win with a last-second trey from Myles Powell over Ibeh.

Bolts Taking Lead

The Bolts are back in action after losing to eventual champion San Miguel Beer in a winner-take-all Game Seven in the semifinals by a score of 100-89, barely missing out on a spot in the Philippine Cup finals.

However, Black and his team made significant progress in that competition when they defeated the Barangay Ginebra Kings in their best-of-three-quarters matchup.

Black believes O’Bryant has the potential to lead them to an even bigger breakthrough.

O’Bryant was “a good one,” according to Black. (SB)

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