AFTER getting the monkey off its back against playoff nemesis Barangay Ginebra, fired-up Meralco trains its sights on another franchise first in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup.
“Meralco’s never been to the finals in the All-Filipino so we can use that as motivation,” skipper Chris Newsome said ahead of the Bolts’ best-of-seven semifinal showdown with top seed San Miguel Beer (SMB). “We recognize that we still have more history that we can make.”
The Bolts are on a high after scoring their breakthrough series win in seven post-elims duels with the Gin Kings via a 2-1 quarterfinal verdict. Led by Newsome’s triple-double outing and Raymond Almazan’s go-ahead triple, Meralco finally got its turn to send Ginebra packing with a thrilling 106-104 clincher on Sunday.
“We go over the hump against Ginebra, but it’s just one step. There’s another goal that we haven’t reached yet, which is getting to the finals,” said Mr. Newsome.
This next mission versus SMB starts tomorrow in a Final Four double-header that also features defending champion TnT and its vanquished rival last year, Magnolia, in an equally explosive matchup.
Mr. Newsome and company brace for a major fight against the powerhouse San Miguel crew led by six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez, Jericho Cruz, Mo Tautuaa and Chris Ross.
“It’s going to be tough, especially with their lineup. But we’re looking forward to this series,” said the do-it-all Fil-Am.
“Like I’ve said, if you wanna get to the top, you have to beat the best. San Miguel is one of the best, if not the best, in the All-Filipino. So, we have to go through them if we wanna go to the finals,” he added.
Meralco is drawing added confidence from having beaten San Miguel the last two times they squared off in the playoffs. The Bolts defeated the twice-to-beat Beermen two times in the 2020 Philippine Cup bubble quarterfinals then cashed on their win-once incentive when they met again in the 2021 Governors’ Cup Last-8. — Olmin Leyba