Meralco nailed a breakthrough semifinals berth in the PBA Philippine Cup after ending the five-year reign of San Miguel, 90-68, at the Angeles University Foundation in Pampanga on Sunday, November 15.
Cliff Hodge could not have picked a better time to play his finest game of the conference with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists as the Bolts overcame a twice-to-beat disadvantage to advance.
Meralco will face familiar foe Barangay Ginebra in its first semifinals appearance since taking over the franchise of Sta. Lucia in 2010.
Hodge unloaded 8 points in a 26-6 run the Bolts erected to open the floodgates, stretching a slim 43-37 lead early in the second half to a comfortable 69-43 advantage.
Keeping its foot on the pedal, Meralco savored its biggest lead of the game at 80-52 off an Aaron Black layup with 11 minutes left.
“Beating them is great, it feels great, not because they’re San Miguel, but because we have a chance to move on the semifinals,” said Bolts head coach Norman Black.
Baser Amer also starred for the Bolts with 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists, Reynel Hugnatan delivered 12 points and 8 rebounds, while Allein Maliksi had 11 points off the bench.
Chris Newsome, Bong Quinto, and Black each had 9 points in the win and conjoined for 13 assists and 12 rebounds.
The Beermen showed their championship mettle when facing a huge deficit after trimming a 22-point second-quarter deficit to just 6 points, 37-43, early in the second half behind Marcio Lassiter.
But San Miguel can only do so much without six-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo and star guard Terrence Romeo as it eventually crumbled.
Lassiter finished with 20 points and Mo Tautuaa chalked up 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 steals in the earliest All-Filipino exit for the Beermen since they got booted out of the semifinals in 2014.
Arwind Santos had 10 points and 9 rebounds for San Miguel.
Meralco 90 – Hodge 14, Amer 14, Hugnatan 12, Maliksi 11, Quinto 9, Newsome 9, Black 9, Almazan 8, Jamito 2, Jackson 2, Caram 0 , Salva 0, Pinto 0, Jose 0.
San Miguel 68 – Lassiter 20, Tautuaa 13, Santos 10, Ross 7, Cabagnot 6, Zamar 3, Alolino 2, Pessumal 0, Comboy 0, Gamalinda 0, Escoto 0.
Quarters: 21-11, 43-31, 75-50, 90-68.