The stakes are high when SMB San Miguel Beermen and Meralco Bolts clash against each other in a do-or-die match in Game 7 of their semifinal series as the PBA Philippine Cup resumes on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Trailing 2-3 before Game 6, the Meralco Bolts stayed alive via a 96-92 win over the Beermen to stretch the series and force a sudden death encounter.
Both teams, hungry for a championship, are chasing the last spot to collide with the TNT Tropang Giga for the much-coveted Emilio Bernardino Trophy.
SMB aiming for the finals
An SMB victory would mean a face-off between corporate arch-rivals MVP Group and San Miguel Beer. Otherwise, a Sister Act looms as MVP sister squads TNT and Meralco will be pitted against each other.
The winningest PBA team San Miguel Beer (SMB) has been without a title since 2019 when they were denied a grand slam that’s why the management made a lot of effort in trade deals to ensure that its star center June Mar Fajardo is surrounded by a new core of fresh faces to help in regaining the all-Filipino crown.
With regular mainstays Fajardo, Chris Ross, and Marcio Lassiter, the Beermen had reinforcements in the likes of CJ Perez, Moala Tautuaa, Jericho Cruz, Vic Manuel, and Rodney Brondial.
Chris Newsome-led Meralco also had its share of shakeups to get the right mix. The team hopes to extend their run after clinching their first breakthrough playoff victory over perennial tormentor Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals.
The Beermen won Games 1, 3, and 5 while the Bolts took Games 2, 4, and 6.
Meralco hoping for the best
Meralco is hoping to secure a PBA Philippine Cup finals seat this time following its failure to do so back in 2020.
Bolts head coach Norman Black said they were this close to making the finals of the All-Filipino in the deciding Game 5 of the 2020 edition when they bowed to Ginebra at Scottie Thompson’s buzzer trey.
“So now we have another chance. It’s a big step for our franchise and now we just have to dig a little bit deeper to try to get there because we’re up against a tough team,” Black said.
The Bolts pulled off a thrilling come-from-behind triumph through Aaron Black’s heroics as he dished 11 consecutive points for Meralco’s 16-2 run.
With 31 seconds left in the game, Aaron completed a three-point play to snatch back the lead after a 90-all deadlock. He went on to score Meralco’s last three points via charities.
Newsome sank 19 to lead the charge for the Bolts, while Aaron and Cliff Hodge contributed 17 markers apiece.
Aaron said, “I was really determined to win today. Kasi kung matalo kami, uuwi na kami (If we lose, we will be going home).”
Meralco made its last-ditch efforts in the final 4:23, erasing San Miguel’s 42-26 advantage in the second quarter.
Meralco (96) – Newsome 19, Black 17, Hodge 17, Banchero 13, Almazan 11, Maliksi 7, Pascual 6, Quinto 6, Hugnatan 0, Pasaol 0, Jose 0.
San Miguel (92) – Fajardo 23, Manuel 16, Lassiter 14, Perez 13, Tautuaa 8, Cruz 8, Enciso 8, Brondial 2, Ross 0, Herndon 0.