Mon. May 23rd, 2022

Meralco import Tony Bishop.

Tony Bishop Jr. (right) sparks the Bolts’ quarterfinal victory over the Beermen. —PBA IMAGES

Meralco coach Norman Black had grown sick and tired of being reminded of his team’s meltdown against San Miguel Beer recently.

So when the Bolts found the chance to make up for such a monumental gaffe on Friday, they did so in style—eliminating the Beermen with a decisive 100-85 decision to become the first club to make the Final Four of the PBA Governors’ Cup.

“The last week, I think I’ve heard over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again [about] us losing a 26 point lead and Shabazz [Muhammad] going for 57 points and us not being able to stop him,” Black told the Inquirer as he shook his head in disbelief.

“I think I’ve heard every adjective for collapse that I could actually hear over the last week. We’ve had to live with that, hear that talk for a week,” he added.

Now, the team that has failed painfully to get past Barangay Ginebra in several Governors’ Cup championship duels has eliminated its more championship-rich sister squad in a second straight quarterfinal duel.

And Meralco truly looked primed for payback, dropping San Miguel Beer in holes 21 points deep and making sure it wouldn’t have to reach for its quarterfinal protection.

Leading the Bolts’ charge, expectedly, was import Tony Bishop Jr., who finished with 32 points, the glut of which came in the middle two quarters, where the Bolts built a comfortable cushion.

“We knew they are a powerhouse team. They have a lot of really good players over there. We just had to stay locked in and fight the whole game—through the adversities, the ups and downs,” Bishop said on the heels of a performance he spiked with 16 rebounds and a pair of blocks.

Chris Newsome chipped in 22 points, while Chris Banchero and Reynel Hugnatan added nine each and help spark a 13-0 run in the third that ultimately kept San Miguel at arm’s length the rest of the way.

“When we were looking at it, we were the last opponent they faced. That was in our head, in the back of our mind. Even if we had the twice-to-beat edge, we still knew we shouldn’t let that last game go,” said Newsome.

“We wanted to go out and leave nothing to chance to book that ticket to the semis. All the way through, a team effort. All the way through,” he added.

Meralco’s cutthroat approach resulted in Muhammad scoring only 24 points. The Beermen’s other stars, including previous scoring champions Terrence Romeo and CJ Perez and six-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, tried to fill the scoring void but fell short.

“I told my players, this is gonna be the game plan, this is how we’re going to slow [Shabazz] down, but the most important thing … was we gotta make sure the other guys don’t explode on us because they have a very talented team,” said Black.

“The guys listened, they believed and went out and executed,” he added.

In the second game, keeping the pedal to the metal all night, top-seeded Magnolia went on to blast No. 8 Phoenix Super LPG to smithereens, 127-88, to claim the second semifinal berth. The Hotshots will battle the Bolts in the semifinals.

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