Early birthday gift for MVP

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star
Early birthday gift for MVP
Manny V. Pangilinan
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Now it can be told. Meralco chairman/CEO Manny V. Pangilinan went to the Bolts’ locker-room about an hour before Game Six of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Sunday and showed a 1971 newspaper clipping of a MICAA championship match. MICAA or the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association was the PBA’s precursor and in 1971, Meralco, whose team was called the Reddy Kilowatts, beat Crispa for the title with Robert Jaworski, Alberto Reynoso and Larry Mumar.

“MVP visited the dugout and had a brief talk with the team,” recounted PBA Meralco Governor Atty. Bill Pamintuan. “He just came from Hong Kong after attending the First Pacific Board meeting and showing the clipping, noted this was the last time Meralco won a championship, that we all had to wait 53 years to get a chance for another one. MVP rallied the Bolts to close out the series and not give San Miguel Beer a chance for a Game Seven. He mentioned he would just attend a family reunion in Makati but would come back to watch the game and celebrate with the team. The Bolts responded positively and were all very thankful and motivated after his talk. We all agreed winning the title would be a fitting birthday gift to Boss MVP (who turns 78 on July 14).”

And then, Meralco got the job done. “Finally, after 14 years and on our fifth Finals, we did it,” said Pamintuan. “Full credit to the hard work and dedication of the Bolts team led by coaches Nenad (Vucinic) and Luigi (Trillo) and (team manager) Paolo (Trillo). Hats off also to coach Jorge (Gallent) and the San Miguel Beer team for bringing the best out of the Bolts and giving the millions of PBA fans a heck of a thrilling and exciting Finals that could have gone either way.”

When June Mar Fajardo hit the three to tie the score, 78-all, with 3.3 seconds to go in Game Six last Sunday, Pamintuan said the Bolts were shocked and in disbelief. “During the timeout, Nenad and Luigi told the team there’s enough time left and we could still win with a last possession shot,” he said. “The last play was meant for Chris (Newsome) and we were really just fortunate with God’s grace that he made that shot. We never talked about going to OT in the huddle and the focus was to close out the series.”

Pamintuan said after the series was tied at two wins apiece, he sent this message to the team: “You have all come this far after so many years and conferences filled with hope, tears, frustrations and regrets. Now is not the time to add this conference to those sad seasons. Let’s make this conference a different one and memorable to all. Play as one team, trust ourselves, trust our teammates, trust our coaches. Be aggressive, brave and confident tonight. Play with a purpose – together, better, stronger.”

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas sent his own message to the Bolts before Game Six: “In a tight game where every possession is important, converting free throws may spell the difference. No let up with the Bolts signature defense. It’s Bolts time, get the win.” As it turned out, San Miguel missed four free throws in the fourth quarter and lost by two.

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