Bolts champs at last

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Bolts champs at last
Finals MVP winner Chris Newsome, his Meralco Bolts teammates and the Meralco support crew pose with the trophy after winning the PBA Season 48 Philippine Cup Finals last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Russell Palma

Meralco captures first pba crown in 14 years

MANILA, Philippines — Transfer of power complete.

The Meralco Bolts, the underdogs who firmly believed they could do it, have done it – toppling the mighty San Miguel Beermen as PBA Philippine Cup kingpins.

With fire in their eyes, the blue-collar Bolts spared no effort as they delivered the killer blow on the Beermen, 80-78, and crowned themselves PBA champs at last on a historic night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Armed with hunger and sheer willpower and cheered on by the Bolts faithful led by Meralco chairman and CEO Manny V. Pangilinan himself, the Bolts seized an early 17-point lead then calmly regrouped when the proud Beermen rallied and caught up, and took it to the finish line.

To merry chants of “Me-ral-co, Me-ral-co” from orange-clad supporters carrying placards with their mantra “believe,” the Bolts, 4-2 winners in this hard-fought title series, celebrated their long-sought franchise breakthrough.

This it’s-our-time-to-shine moment arrived after four failed attempts in the import-flavored Governors’ Cup over the last eight years, 5,005 days after making their PBA debut with a 73-72 victory over Barangay Ginebra on Oct. 3, 2010.

As a franchise that existed even before the PBA’s foundation in 1975, Meralco hoisted the trophy again for the first time since reigning supreme in the old MICAA back in 1971.

But before meeting their date with destiny, the Bolts had to survive a tough final stand from the deposed champs.

SMB’s MVP June Mar Fajardo hit a bucket followed by a booming trey to tie it all up with 3.1 seconds left. Chris Newsome restored a two-point cushion with a baseline jumper then Meralco challenged Fajardo’s potential game-winner from deep that missed the mark at the buzzer.

And at long last, the confetti fell for Meralco, a resilient bunch that didn’t lose faith despite standing at 11th with a 3-5 card at one point in the elims and facing a 2-3 deficit against Barangay Ginebra in the semis.

“Last month, we were in the bottom two. We went on a run and we won the championship. This is crazy,” said Cliff Hodge, their longest tenured player.

“San Miguel is the best team ever built in the PBA and these guys are tough, they played their butts off, they didn’t give it to us. We just rallied together, trusted one another, believed we could do it and we did it,” said Hodge.

Newsome fired 15 in the memorable clincher, including nine in the fourth en route to PBA Press Corps Finals MVP honors. Allein Maliksi (14), Bong Quinto (11) and Chris Banchero (10) helped out offensively while Hodge and the rest of the guys delivered in the hustle and defense aspects.

Fajardo, with 21-12-5, paced SMB, which fell short of sweeping the two-conference Season 48.

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