Ecstasy at long wait’s end

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Ecstasy at long wait�s end
Meralco Bolts
Photo by Russell Palma

MANILA, Philippines — Fate couldn’t have written a more electrifying moment of glory for the indefatigable Meralco Bolts.

A money shot in the dying seconds from a star who has endured long years of fruitless title bids to seal the deal.

A coveted milestone achieved at the expense of the gold standard of the PBA – the mighty San Miguel Beer.

On a historic Father’s Day Game 6, the Bolts shed off the almost-but-not-quite, always-the-bridesmaids reputation it’s been carrying the last few seasons.

Better believe it, the underdog Bolts are now the toast of the PBA Philippine Cup.

“Feels like a dream but at the same time I put the work in for this so I know I deserve this. All the guys in that locker room deserve this as well. I see them work every single day and it’s nice to finally have that breakthrough championship for Meralco,” said Chris Newsome, wearing the net on his neck shortly after Meralco brought the SMB Death Squad to the gallows, 80-78, for a 4-2 series triumph

“I cried tonight as well. Lots of emotions. To make it all the way to the top of the mountain and get knocked down continuously and continuously and to get back up on my feet and climb it again and finally get it. You know, there’s not many words to describe it,” said Chris Banchero, the championship cigar in his mouth.

The first one’s certainly the sweetest for Newsome, Banchero, Cliff Hodge and Anjo Caram, who have spent all their PBA careers hunting for it and falling short.

Hodge has been at it since 2012, Newsome, the Finals MVP who produced the game winner, since 2015 – all with Meralco. Ditto Caram, drafted in 2013. Banchero, who came on board in 2019, hit paydirt after heartbreaks dating back to his days with Alaska.

“The way God drew it up tonight is something special. June Mar (Fajardo) hit that (tying) three and I’m sure everybody thought that we were going to overtime. Then I threw that pass to Newsome, he knocked it down and the rest is literally history. So it’s a first for a lot of us,” said Banchero.

“Those guys, Cliff and Newsome and Anjo as well, have been there from their first day of their professional careers and my biggest motivation is for them to finally taste and get what they really deserve. And I’m so happy for them and I hope it’s not the last one they get,” said active consultant Nenad Vucinic, who has worked in tandem with head coach Luigi Trillo in whipping Meralco into championship form amid a trying campaign.

It’s been a winning streak of late for Hodge, Meralco’s longest tenured player and main hustle guy.

“I want to thank God. I’ve been praying a lot recently and He’s been answering all of my prayers. My wife is pregnant, we’ve been trying to have a baby for six years and she’s five months pregnant. He answered that prayer. I wanted to win the championship, He answered that prayer,” said Hodge.

As a PBA franchise, the Bolts have ended the longest wait for a maiden conference title at 13 seasons, eclipsing the 11 of Tanduay. Counting Meralco’s previous stint in the old MICAA, the ballclub hasn’t tasted a championship since 1971.

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