Beating an old, dreaded foe makes the victory sweeter for Meralco in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup late Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Bolts head coach Luigi Trillo said making it to the best-of-seven semifinal series was made special by the fact that it came at the expense of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel — a team that had claimed their scalps in four of the past five finals encounters.
Trillo said the Kings refused to go down without putting up a fight so they have to be wary because they will surely storm back, especially in the season-ending Governors’ Cup.
“We’re just super relieved that have that monkey off our backs. Kudos to Ginebra. They will surely be back,” Trillo said following their heart-stopping 106-104 win over the Kings in Game 3 of their best-of-three quarterfinal series.
Trillo added that the Kings have erected a team that is capable of dominating the league.
Aside from mainstays LA Tenorio, Scottie Thompson and Japeth Aguilar, the Kings added Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle to boost their roster while making a draft-day deal that landed them second overall pick Jeremiah Gray.
The injured Gray sat out majority of the Philippine Cup but is tipped to be back stronger and better in the next conference.
That’s why beating Ginebra at its peak was truly special for Trillo, who has been doing a marvelous job substituting for head coach Norman Black.
“We were the whipping boys before. They got Standhardinger, Pringle, and now they got Gray. So, they’re going to be back, but I’m so proud of everybody on the team. We knew that they will make a run and we stuck together,” said Trillo, adding that Raymond Almazan’s three-pointer off a pass from Chris Newsome in the crucial stretch powered them to victory.
“Newsome has confidence in Raymond. He builds confidence all around. Some of the guys who don’t do well, he comes up trying to encourage them. That is what Meralco culture is all about,” he said.
“Newsome played well, Aaron played well, but it needed a three-point shot from Raymond to get those monkeys off our backs. I’m super proud of Raymond.”
Newsome admitted that beating the Kings feels like winning the title.
But their job is far from done.
“Like I said in our previous interviews, we enjoy this kind of opportunity to play Ginebra. We’re not avoiding it at all. This is something we’re looking forward to and what we’ve been working towards to for a long time,” said Newsome, who fired a rare triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.
“But we still have a semifinal series to work on next.”