PBA: 'Relentless' Meralco relishes Ginebra breakthrough

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 01 2022 01:20 PM

The Meralco Bolts celebrate after a big shot against Barangay Ginebra in Game 3 of their PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal series. PBA Images.
The Meralco Bolts celebrate after a big shot against Barangay Ginebra in Game 3 of their PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal series. PBA Images.

MANILA, Philippines -- It took nearly six years and plenty of heartbreak, but the Meralco Bolts finally own a series victory against the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings.

A 106-104 triumph in Game 3 of their 2022 PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal series allowed Meralco to eliminate Ginebra and book their place in the semifinal, where they will play the top-seeded San Miguel Beermen.

For the Bolts, it marked the first time in seven playoff meetings that they have beaten the Gin Kings.

"We just proved that if you're relentless, that good things will happen. You just gotta keep fighting," said Meralco captain Chris Newsome, who earned Player of the Game honors on Sunday night as he delivered a triple-double in their win.

Newsome had been part of Meralco since 2015, and endured six playoff losses to Ginebra before finally breaking through. The veteran put his stamp on the game, with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists -- including the dish to Raymond Almazan for the go-ahead three-pointer with a minute to play.

Afterward, he could not hide his delight at finally getting one against the Gin Kings, who have made their rivalry a one-sided affair since the two teams first met in the finals of the 2016 PBA Governors' Cup.

"It's nice to have that monkey off our back, and we can finally move forward and enjoy the win, enjoy everything that we built up, up until this point," said Newsome. 

"It's a collective effort from the coaching staff all the way to our utility guys. Everyone believed that we can get it, and it just paid off today," he added.

After losing in the 2016 Governors' Cup finals, Meralco lost again to Ginebra in their 2017 rematch. They also lost in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Commissioner's Cup, the finals of the 2019 Governors' Cup, and the semifinals of the 2020 Philippine Cup.

In April, they lost to Ginebra again in the finals of the Governors' Cup, the fourth time that they faltered at the last hurdle against the Gin Kings. 

Despite the repeated failures against the perennial crowd favorites, Newsome said they consistently look forward to playing Ginebra.

"We enjoy having this challenge again, this opportunity again, to play Ginebra. We're not trying to avoid it all," he insisted. "This is something that we've been looking forward to, and we've been working towards for a long time now. We finally got it."

"I'm just so proud of everybody in our team," added Luigi Trillo, who coached the Bolts in place of Norman Black. 

Aside from Newsome, six other players reached double-digits for the Bolts, including Aaron Black who had 17 markers. Cliff Hodge had a double-double of 13 points and 18 rebounds. 

Meralco squandered a 21-point lead in the game, but this time they avoided a complete collapse.

"We knew they would make a run, and we stuck together. It was good that we got the lead early, so we just had to hold it out, 'cause it's hard when you go down against Ginebra," said Trillo. "So [I'm] just proud of everyone."

Meralco is now looking ahead to their semifinals series against San Miguel, in what will be a best-of-seven affair. But they also know that their rivalry with Ginebra is not quite over.

"We know Ginebra will be back. We have the highest respect for that organization," said Trillo. 

"At least we can say it's off our back … [but] I'm sure we'll see them more and more. They like seeing Meralco and Ginebra. So, you can say the rivalry keeps on. And we know Ginebra's gonna be there," he added. "We know they'll be back."