PBA Philippine Cup

‘Hope it’s our turn’: Meralco eyes breakthrough PH Cup finals after dragging Ginebra to Game 7

Delfin Dioquino

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‘Hope it’s our turn’: Meralco eyes breakthrough PH Cup finals after dragging Ginebra to Game 7

DRIVE. Chris Newsome in action for the Meralco Bolts in the 2024 PBA Philippine Cup.

PBA Images

Meralco has never won in a best-of-seven series in franchise history, but the Bolts have a chance to change that as they force a do-or-die Game 7 against Barangay Ginebra in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals

MANILA, Philippines – Maybe this time, the odds will favor Meralco.

Dealt multiple heartbreaks by Barangay Ginebra through the years, the Bolts stare at a breakthrough finals appearance in the PBA Philippine Cup after dragging the Gin Kings to a do-or-die Game 7 following a gripping 86-81 win at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday, May 29.

Bong Quinto took charge with 23 points, while Allein Maliksi delivered down the stretch by pouring 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter as Meralco sent the best-of-seven series to a rubber match that will be played on the road on Friday, May 31, at the FPJ Arena in San Jose, Batangas.

“I hope it’s our turn. It’s good for the league. I think we’ve earned it,” said head coach Luigi Trillo in a mix of Filipino and English. “We have a lot of respect for Ginebra and what they do. We know it’s going to be hard. We’ve been there.”

History, though, is not on the Bolts’ side.

Meralco holds a dismal 0-6 record in best-of-seven battles, with four of those losses coming against the Gin Kings in the finals as the Bolts fell short of the crown in the 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2021 Governors’ Cup to the same team.

Also, Meralco has beaten Ginebra only once in their seven playoff encounters.

Last season, the Bolts also forced a Game 7 in the semifinals of the All-Filipino tournament only to succumb to eventual champion San Miguel.

The pain from those heart-wrenching defeats has lit a fire under Meralco as it aims to finally turn its fortunes around.

“I don’t want this to be another learning experience. When you’re a rookie or a sophomore, you want to gain experience. Now, I really want to win,” said Quinto in Filipino. “Ginebra made me cry twice in the finals. And now here we are, facing them again.”

Hell-bent on keeping the Bolts alive, Quinto scattered 10 points in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter before handing the scoring reins to Maliksi.

A Maliksi layup with over two minutes remaining gave Meralco an 82-74 lead – a cushion big enough to hold off a last-ditch Gin Kings comeback.

Ginebra got within 81-84 with under 10 seconds left off a pair of three-pointers from Maverick Ahanmisi and Stanley Pringle, but Chris Newsome sealed the win for the Bolts by calmly sinking his free throws to finish with 21 points.

Cliff Hodge added 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks in the gutsy win, Chris Banchero posted a near triple-double with 9 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 blocks, while Raymond Almazan chimed in 7 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 steals.

As the series goes the distance, Meralco banks on its experience of winning games on the road, just like when it defeated Ginebra in Game 3 in Dasmariñas City, Cavite, and when it denied the Beermen a sweep of the elimination round in Batangas City.

“I said it’s not over. This is what we want, a Game 7,” said Trillo.

Christian Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar scored 19 points each and combined for 15 rebounds to pace the Gin Kings, while Ahanmisi contributed 13 points and 9 rebounds in the win.

Scottie Thompson tallied 9 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in the loss.

The Scores

Meralco 86 – Quinto 23, Newsome 21, Maliksi 14, Hodge 10, Banchero 9, Almazan 7, Bates 2, Pascual 0, Caram 0, Jose 0

Barangay Ginebra 81 – J. Aguilar 19, Standhardinger 19, Ahanmisi 13, Pringle 12, Thompson 9, Tenorio 3, Pinto 3, Cu 3, Murrell 0, Pessumal 0.

Quarters: 19-18, 38-37, 54-53, 86-81.

– Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.