MANILA, Philippines -- After years of languishing in the league cellar during the All-Filipino conferences, the Meralco Bolts finally broke through last season.
The Bolts made it all the way to the semifinals of the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup, and were seconds away from a finals appearance. It was not meant to be, however, as Scottie Thompson drilled the series-winning triple for Barangay Ginebra in Game 5.
For team governor Al Panlilio, Meralco's achievement was something to be proud of, but he also knows the team cannot stop there.
"The All-Filipino has always been our Achilles' heel, for Meralco," he noted during an appearance on the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday. "We seem to struggle every time it's All-Filipino, but we do well when it's import-laden."
"But we had a breakthrough last year," he added.
Their impressive performance in the bubble in Clark, Pampanga was proof that the hard work of their players and coaching staff is working, said Panlilio.
Anchoring the Bolts' breakthrough campaign were Chris Newsome and veteran Reynel Hugnatan, who even got a nomination for Most Improved Player for his contributions. Rookie Aaron Black also had a solid freshman year and won the Outstanding Rookie award.
"We're striving, we're working hard," said Panlilio. "Hopefully, we go to the next step this conference and we hit naman the finals."
"We hope to develop and become better still, that's the aspiration of every team," he added. "Lalaban lang kami ng lalaban. I think with Coach Norman (Black) naman, we will always compete, try to compete our very best."
The PBA is planning to start its 46th season in April.
Meralco has already resumed practices after returning negative results from COVID-19 tests. At the moment, teams are only allowed to practice with five players at a time, and scrimmages are still barred.