Meralco Bolts' six steps to PBA immortality

Meralco Bolts’ six steps to PBA immortality

/ 09:13 PM June 24, 2024

Meralco Bolts celebrate their first franchise PBA championship

Meralco Bolts celebrate their first franchise PBA championship. – PBA Images

MANILA, Philippines—In order to make a masterpiece of a film, a movie needs six things.

Meralco showed how it made its magnum opus with coach Luigi Trillo and active consultant Nenad Vucinic behind the camera, commanding the Bolts in making a historic film; winning their first-ever PBA Philippine Cup.

Inquirer Sports breaks down how the Bolts achieved history in the most fascinating and cinematic way possible while doing it in six steps—or games.



Meralco Bolts' Cliff Hodge, Allein Maliksi and Raymond Almazan during Game 5 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals against San Miguel Beermen

Meralco Bolts’ Cliff Hodge, Allein Maliksi and Raymond Almazan during Game 5 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals against San Miguel Beermen. –MARLO CUETO/

Meet the heroes.

In order to make a sound movie, it has to give an introduction to its main protagonists. In this case, the Bolts.

After finishing as the third-seed in the elimination round of the All-Filipino Conference, Meralco was set up to face the top-seeded San Miguel Beermen, who finished with a 10-1 record.

On paper, it was obvious that the season-ending best-of-seven series was set to be a David and Goliath affair.


READ: Meralco wins first PBA title, survives San Miguel in Game 6

Trillo, obviously, wasn’t reading the same paper.


“San Miguel, we have a lot of respect for them but we can match up with them,” said the top coach just days before Game 1 of the Finals.

That same confidence, of course, bore amazing results.

After all, the Finals is a completely different beast compared to the elimination round. So the Bolts channeled their inner Jay-Z and said, “allow us to reintroduce ourselves.”

And reintroduce themselves, they did.

In Game 1 of the Philippine Cup’s finalè, Meralco reintroduced itself in a stunning way, shocking the fans who thought the Beermen would have an easy go-around against the Bolts.

Those expectations of a San Miguel domination turned out to be a 93-86 win for Meralco to take the upper-hand.

However, one win in a series opener means nothing. Just ask Trillo, who made it clear that this movie’s just starting. Meralco needed to embark on an adventure in the coming games with hopes of solving the mighty Beermen’s puzzle.

READ: PBA: Aaron Black fulfills championship dream in unexpected way

“We need to prepare,” said a dazed Trillo.

“The more we zone in and lock in on those [plans], the better chance—50-50 chance—we have of beating this team. Then again, we know they’ll come in with adjustments. We need to see the same mistakes we did here,” said the top tactician.”

And what do you do once you introduce your valiant main characters?


San Miguel's June Mar Fajardo PBA Finals

San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo during the PBA Philippine Cup Finals. –MARLO CUETO/

There’s a reason why San Miguel posed to be one of the best antagonists in recent PBA history.

Imagine Thanos having the Infinity Gauntlet to help with his already brute physique.

Now imagine having June Mar Fajardo and giving him reinforcements like Marcio Lassiter, CJ Perez, Jericho Cruz and Chris Ross to name a few. Just how would you approach that mammoth of a team?

Well, like Thanos, San Miguel activated one of their stones to take down the emerging hero of this story.

READ: PBA: Unable to stop June Mar, Meralco still finds way to win

Enter “Super Marcio.”

Marcio Lassiter, who had a habit of hitting clutch shots for the Beermen, showed up big to avoid Meralco from snatching a 2-0 advantage.

The Bolts held a slim 94-92 lead over San Miguel when CJ Perez ran the length of the floor and found a ready and waiting Lassiter in the left corner of the hardwood.

“I just knew if I can get to my spot, read the defense and pump fake, I can be open. I got a good look at the basket and that’s all I really need,” said the San Miguel sniper.

“Anytime I can get a good look and see the rim, I really feel like I can make it. A few times before, I was able to stay poised and when given an opportunity, I took it,” he added.

Lassiter’s heroics gave the Beermen a 95-94 victory, further making this film of a series more exciting.


Chris Newsome PBA Finals MVP Meralco Bolts

Meralco Bolts’ Chris Newsome. –MARLO CUETO/

Revenge is a dish best served cold… or just a day before a heartbreaking loss.

When Chris Newsome watched Lassiter step back and sink the dagger in the heart of his beloved team, he had 48 hours to respond.

When the Bolts faithful thought about how Meralco would answer from a tragic loss, Newsome had the answer in the 34-second mark of Game 3’s fourth quarter.

In almost the exact spot where Lassiter pummeled Meralco’s heart into bits in Game 2, the Gilas Pilipinas guard waited patiently while Chris Banchero set up a play.

The Beermen led, 89-88, until Newsome found breathing room—yes, in the same left corner of the Big Dome’s court—and hit a triple in front of well-renowned defender Mo Tautuaa to give San Miguel a taste of its own medicine.

After all, what’s more cinematic than seeing parallels?

“To be honest, I wasn’t thinking. I was just being in the moment,” said Newsome after their 93-89 dub that put them up the series, 2-1.

“It felt good that my shot did fall but at the end of the day, you can’t let your guard down until it [the clock] says 0:00.”

However, if you know the Beermen as well as any PBA fans do, you know they’re brewing up a vengeance and they had three days to draw it up.


A climax is the most intense, exciting, or important point of something; a culmination or an apex.

And in this All-Filipino Conference, the apex was Fajardo, the most dominant player in PBA history with a league-best seven MVP awards.

In this part of the film, he was crowned as the Best Player of the Conference, his 10th overall. Seeing Fajardo hailed for his dominance was nothing new. For the Bolts, though, it was a concerning sight.

The Bolts defeated this mammoth of a man three days ago and just when he had enough motivation from a harrowing defeat, he was given another trophy to add to his already packed cabinet of hardwares?

Cue Darth Vader’s theme song, because that was the most fitting sound seeing Fajardo raise up the BPC award; it’s awe-inspiring, breathtaking and borderline terrifying—if you’re his opposition.

And the Bolts were, indeed, his opposition.

As expected, the rested and undisputed GOAT of the PBA toyed with Meralco from start to finish, showing fans what they haven’t seen for the past three games of the series; clear-cut dominance.

Meralco never led in the entire game. Fajardo, meanwhile, turned in a monster performance to the tune of 28 points and 13 rebounds. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he also missed just five of his 14 shots for a waxing-hot 64 percent field goal clip.

In Fajardo’s explanation, the trophy wasn’t really the main motivation for his in-game rampage. No, you can thank the Bolts for provoking him with a win three days ago.

The BPC plum? Well, that’s just the cherry on top.

“I’m motivated because we were down by one game in this series. The BPC [award] is just a bonus,” said Fajardo in Filipino.

“I’m happy to get the BPC but [I give] credits to my teammates because I wouldn’t get that if it wasn’t for them.”

With the series pushed back to square one at 2-2, leaving the question: Which team would fall into a dangerous 2-3 disadvantage.


Meralco Bolts guard Chris Banchero

Meralco Bolts guard Chris Banchero. –MARLO CUETO/

That team was not the Meralco Bolts.

Trillo’s wards took what was predicted to be an easy go-around for the Beermen and that has been the theme thus far into the series, hasn’t it?

Every time Meralco would score a goal, spectators would move the goalpost even farther. The Bolts would reach that goalpost anyway, showing how truly valiant a protagonist could be.

But this win felt different from other Meralco victories in the back-and-forth series. Instead of moving just one win away from history, the Bolts had little to no smile after the buzzer sounded on their 92-88 victory over San Miguel.

“What’s there to be happy about?” asked Maliksi post-game.

“We don’t think about the future, we’ll stay in the moment and prepare for Sunday’s game,” added the Meralco sniper after finishing with 22 points to topple the Beermen down to a twice-to-win disadvantage.

Despite moving a step closer to finishing what has been a glorious story, the Bolts are well-aware not to close the book and celebrate right away.

Just ask Chris Banchero, who can quite literally be the lead actor of this adventurous flick.

“We know they’ll come out and give it their all and we’ll do the same. We know we’re in no position to do anything because we haven’t done anything,” said the floor general, fresh off a 12-point outing.

Things were looking fine and dandy for this movie’s protagonists but there still was Sunday.


Meralco Bolts PBA Finals championship

Meralco Bolts win their first-ever PBA title after beating San Miguel Beermen in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals.–MARLO CUETO/

Meralco, as its team name suggests, has Bolts, who are capable of electrifying the crowd and even the history books.

That’s exactly what they did on Sunday, June 16, inside the Big Dome.

With just one win from finishing what has been a tremendous story, Trillo, Vucinic and the entire Meralco squad buckled up for an impending Beermen effort.

“We had to pivot and work through things. There were times when we were down but our staff members helped each other out, challenged the guys, we challenged the players and they responded to get out of holes,” Trillo said after exorcising Meralco’s demons of never winning a title with an 80-78 thriller.

But he wouldn’t have done it without the help of his right-hand man, the mentor out of Serbia and New Zealand.

“For coach Nenad and me, it’s not just about one or two games, looking at him and what he does, he puts pressure on guys and I’m glad the guys stepped up.”

Despite the antagonists’ best efforts highlighted by another double-double performance by Fajardo with 21 points and 12 rebounds, Meralco hung on until the end, repulsing any possibilities for a do-or-die Game 7.

In the ending scene of a remarkable movie, Allein Maliksi left his stamp in the record books with 14 points and three rebounds

Of course, Newsome’s heroics weren’t left unacknowledged as he won the Finals MVP award, willing the Bolts to a masterpiece of a series with norms of 22.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists after six games.

At the end of it all when the credits rolled, the protagonists rose to the occasion against a franchise that’s almost synonymous with the word “dynasty.”

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The Beermen’s run to a 30th championship wasn’t to be. No, that story will probably be in production very soon with only a few months away from the next PBA season.

Tonight, this series and this conference belonged to one team and one team only. They didn’t just accomplish that feat historically, they also did it quite cinematically.

TAGS: Luigi Trillo, Meralco Bolts, PBA Philippine Cup

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