Meralco didn’t want to give up on Sunday’s PBA Philippine Cup run. It pulled off an unlikely comeback in the final four minutes to stun San Miguel Beer, 96-92, and force a deciding Game 7 at Smart Araneta Coliseum in their semifinal series.
Aaron Black scored the last 11 points to help the Bolts beat the Beermen. The Beermen appeared to be on track to win the series when they were up 90-80 with four minutes left in the game.
Instead, Meralco set up a rubber match for Wednesday against either defending champion TNT or Magnolia for a spot in the finals.
“We thought at halftime that we had a chance to win the game, and we just have to keep playing,” said Meralco coach Norman Black, whose team was also behind by 16 in the second and 11 at halftime.
“We always talked about how we could win in the last second, the last 30 seconds, or the last minute. We didn’t want to get distracted, and we just wanted to stay focused because we know this is a do-or-die game,” he said.
In Game 5, it was hard for Black
PBA News: Black had a hard time in Game 5, but he ended up with 17 points. He scored the winning basket and a bonus free throw after CJ Perez’s foul with 31.5 seconds left, giving Meralco a 93-90 lead.
The Bolts almost lost their chance to win when Perez stole a pass from Allein Maliksi and got called for a foul while trying to make a corner three with 9.5 seconds left.
But Perez only made two of his three free throws, and he missed the third one, so SMB’s deficit was still 93-92. Black made both of his free throws. Then Bong Quinto stole Chris Ross’s baseball pass on the inbound, and Black’s two free throws with 5.1 seconds left sealed the deal.
In the Philippine Cup, the Bolts have only been in this position once, in the 2020 bubble.
But Scottie Thompson’s buzzer-beating triple in Game 5 of their best-of-five semifinal series against Barangay Ginebra, who went on to win the tournament, broke their hearts.
This time, Norman Black wants something different to happen.
He added, “It’s a big win for us, not just for this series but for our whole franchise.” “I think we’ve only been this close to making the All-Filipino finals once before when Scottie Thompson hit a three-pointer at the buzzer and Ginebra beat us.
“Now we have a second chance to get to the All Filipino finals. So it’s a big step for our team, and we’ll have to work a little harder to get there because we know we’re up against a tough team.”
Norman Black knows the Beermen will return
The Bolts coach said, “Right now, the most important thing for me is to get my coaching staff together and talk about what changes they can make for Game 7.”
“Because (San Miguel) coach Leo (Austria) has been doing an excellent job of making changes every time they lose. We try to predict what they will do and make a few changes of our own to stay one step ahead.
“It’s tough to stop them. It makes a great team. I know that it will change some things before the next game. Since this is the last game, we must also make changes and stop reacting to them.
“We’ll just try to watch the tapes repeatedly and do what we need to do to win Match 7 and move on to the finals.”
96 MERALCO — 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.
Quarters: 33-22, 56-45, 74-71, 96-92.