Meralco's Banchero finally nails elusive PBA title

Ralph Edwin Villanueva - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — After past defeats, Chris Banchero can now call himself a PBA champion.

Banchero on Sunday won the title when the Meralco Bolts squeaked past the San Miguel Beermen, 82-80, to become PBA Philippine Cup champions.

The guard, who was drafted fifth in the 2014 PBA Draft by the Alaska Aces, has seen his fair share of finals appearances.

Before this year’s PBA Philippine Cup, he has lost all five of his previous championship series.

And now getting his first one, the Filipino-Italian guard is filled with emotions.

“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,” Banchero, who finished Game 6 with 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, told reporters.

“You know, there’s not many words to describe it. My first one.”

With the defending champions Beermen tying the game up at 88 with 3.3 seconds to go after an improbable 3-pointer by June Mar Fajardo, it was Banchero who inbounded the ball on the other end.

The inbound pass then found the hands of Chris Newsome, who turned and hoisted up the game-winning baseline jumper as the Bolts clinch the championship.

“Year after year, especially with Alaska, you know, it just wasn't meant to be and, you know, those are all lessons. The way God drew it up tonight is, you know, something special,” he said.

“June Mar hit that three and I'm sure everybody thought that we were going to overtime. And I threw that pass to New and he knocked it down and, you know, the rest is literally history. So it's a first for a lot of us,” he added.

“It doesn't make it any sweeter that it was San Miguel, just to win it is enough for me, to go through them.”

Meralco could be seen as San Miguel’s kryptonite the whole conference.

After the Beermen won their first 10 games, they lost their first game against the Bolts to cap the elimination round.

The next game, San Miguel lost its first quarterfinal contest against the Terrafirma Dyip, but they exacted revenge immediately to go to the semifinals.

After sweeping the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the final four, they faced the Bolts in the Finals and the two traded wins.

The only time either squad won back-to-back games in the series was in Games 5 and 6, both won by Meralco.

“Obviously, they had an incredible regular season and they swept the semifinals, so we knew we were what we were getting into and the coaches really gave us a really good game plan and we were able to execute,” Banchero stressed.

“That was an incredible series. I'm sure it was an incredible series to watch. Every single game was kind of back and forth, including tonight. Yeah, that was the loudest I've heard Araneta in all the years I play. I don't know about you guys, I'm sure you guys heard it too, but for me it was.”

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