Meralco finally beats Ginebra in a Game 7 to advance to PBA Finals

Chris Banchero lifts Meralco Bolts past Ginebra Gin Kings in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals Game 7

Chris Banchero lifts Meralco Bolts past Ginebra Gin Kings in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals Game 7. –PBA IMAGES

Scrap the gigantic battle of sister teams that predominantly ruled the PBA in the past decade.

Instead, the Meralco Bolts spoiled a projected all-San Miguel Corporation clash for the league’s most important prize with a determined performance in dealing Barangay Ginebra its latest semifinal heartbreak.

Meralco’s 78-69 win Friday at FPJ Arena here in San Jose, Batangas, put the electric company in the all-Filipino Finals against juggernaut San Miguel Beer, which will finally get to map out its plans after a long respite while waiting for this hard-fought semis series to conclude.

Game 1 will start on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

After losing its first six playoff meetings with Ginebra, including four in the Finals, Meralco has won the last two, this recent one perhaps being the most fulfilling.

Resilient Bolts

Meralco overcame blown leads and a 3-2 deficit after a Game 5 meltdown to win the final two games.

“There’s a lot of resiliency [on this team], especially after being down 3-2,” said coach Luigi Trillo. “I don’t think a lot of teams have come back from 3-2, but it’s big for the organization.”

Now the Bolts hope to finally fulfill their long mission of winning the franchise’s first championship since the former champion in the defunct Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (Micaa) rejoined the big league loop in 2010.

One thing that could help the psyche of Meralco is that it is one of just two teams that handed San Miguel a defeat this conference, denying the Beermen an elimination round sweep a few weeks ago in nearby Batangas City.

Stinging setbacks

Meralco hopes to get another inspiring performance from Game 7 heroes Chris Banchero and rookie Brandon Bates when the title series rolls along.

Banchero finished with 24 points despite dealing with an injured finger, while Bates imposed problems in the paint and blocked six shots with 13 rebounds while defending Christian Standhardinger.

Chris Newsome, who has witnessed plenty of ups and downs since being drafted by Meralco in 2015, added 20 points.

Meralco has taken some painful defeats at the hands of Ginebra in playoff series, including two while the Bolts were bannered by Allen Durham in import-laden conferences.

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Ginebra couldn’t recover after losing a big lead early in the decider before a big crowd at the venue named after the late great movie icon Fernando Poe Jr.