Meralco toppled San Miguel Beer’s PBA Philippine Cup dynasty in the most unthinkable way Sunday night, dominating right from the get go to pull off a 90-68 victory and arrange a semifinal duel with top seed Barangay Ginebra.
Almost every player inserted by coach Norman Black came through in the do-or-die quarterfinals game as the Bolts reached the All-Filipino semis for the first time ever after becoming the 16th team in PBA history to beat an opponent with a twice-to-beat advantage.
They did it at the expense of the Beermen, whose Philippine Cup dominance came to an end after a campaign marred by injuries to stars June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo and struggles during the latter part of their stay inside the bubble.
“Obviously, beating them is great. It feels great, not because we beat San Miguel but because we’re moving on to the semifinals,” said Black, who tried to downplay the magnitude of SMB’s early exit but while praising the Beermen for half-decade dominance in the PBA’s most important tournament.
“Breaking their five-year championship streak? Well, that says they’re also great so we’re just happy to be here. It just happened that it’s the San Miguel team that we had to go through,” added Black.
The Bolts face another tough task against the Kings, who always have their numbers particularly last January when they won PBA Governors’ Cup crown via a 4-1 victory in the finals.
Game 1 of their best-of-five series is set Wednesday night inside Smart Clark Giga City.
Veteran Reynel Hugnatan, Allein Maliksi and rookie Aaron Black got things going as Meralco took command early before building its biggest lead of the first half at 40-18.
They led, 43-31, at the half but saw the Beermen threaten to make things interesting when Marcio Lassiter opened the third quarter by knocking down back-to-back threes to cut the Bolts lead to seven.
But Meralco refused to crumble as Cliff Hodge and Baser Amer, who emerged as top scorers with 14 points each, Chris Newsome, Bong Quinto and Raymond Almazan countered on both ends of the floor and outscored SMB 32-13 to end the third with a 75-50 advantage.
By then, the countdown was on for the end of SMB’s reign.
Hugnatan had 12 points and eight rebounds, Maliksi scored 11 points in 17 minutes, Black continued to impress in his freshman campaign under his dad with nine points, three rebounds and four assists, Quinto produced nine points, six rebounds and four assists and Almazan eight points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Lassiter was the one of the few bright spots for SMB with 20 points despite a 7-of-25 shooting while Mo Tautuaa finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds despite being the focus of Meralco’s defense.
SMB struggled for the second straight game, shooting 9-of-32 from three-point range while turning the ball over 14 times which Meralco translated into 21 points.
Meralco also had a 32-5 advantage in bench points, which was evident with its balanced scoring attack that the team wants to continue against a more-talented Ginebra side.
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.