By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

THE Meralco Bolts booked their place in the semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup for the first time in franchise history. But while they are happy with it, they know the job is not done yet and bound to get tougher as waiting for them in the next round are familiar tormentors, the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings.

On Sunday, the Bolts completed the upset of erstwhile five-time defending champions San Miguel Beermen in their quarterfinal series, overcoming a twice-to-win disadvantage and capping it off with a 90-68 victory in the rubber match.

It was a total domination by Meralco of San Miguel, controlling the match throughout, thanks to a balanced attack on both ends of the court.

Cliff Hodge and Baser Amer top-scored for the Bolts in the win, with the duo also combining for 13 rebounds and six assists.

Veteran big man Reynel Hugnatan had 12 while Allein Maliksi finished with 11 for Meralco.

The victory set the Bolts up for another high-stakes collision with Barangay Ginebra, whom they have faced three times in the last four years in the finals of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup, with the Kings taking home the title in each of them.

“They have been getting the better of the matchup and it hasn’t changed this conference,” said Meralco coach Norman Black of their reengagement with the Kings.

“They are well coached and they have the best player in the league I think in Stanley Pringle. They are good at moving the basketball around. We have a big challenge ahead of us,” he added.

Barangay Ginebra took its lone game in the eliminations against Meralco, 105-91, on Oct. 18, with Japeth Aguilar and Mr. Pringle leading the way.

But despite the Kings having them at bay so far, Mr. Black said they are not being deterred by it, vowing to give their all and compete.  

“I have to sit down and study Ginebra. I haven’t really studied them because we played them early in the conference, but we are a better team now than when we started and hopefully we can give them a run for their money,” said Mr. Black, the third winningest coach in the PBA with 11 titles.

“The goal is to make it to the championship but, of course, to be able to do that, we have to go through Ginebra. We know they are going to be the favorites because they have a good team, quality players, but we will be competing,” he added.

Game One of the best-of-five semifinal series of Barangay Ginebra and Meralco is on Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Angeles University Foundation Arena in Pampanga.

Meanwhile, Matthew Wright of the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters led the league in the statistical points (SPs) at the end of the elimination round.

The sweet-shooting Wright, who helped the Fuel Masters to the second seed in the playoffs with an 8-3 record, had 39.5 SPs.

He had the second-best scoring average after 11 games of 22.8 ppg, to go along with 6 apg, 5.4 rpg and 1.4 spg, to boost his push to the statistical point summit, a key component in winning individual awards.

Finishing second was Terrafirma Dyip’s and league scoring leader CJ Perez (35.7 SPs), followed by Phoenix’s Jason Perkins (35.5) at third.

TNT Tropang Giga’s Ray Parks Jr. (35.2) was fourth and fifth was Northport Batang Pier’s Christian Standhardinger (34.6).

Complementing the top 10 were TNT’s Roger Pogoy (34.3) and Jayson Castro (33.6), Barangay Ginebra’s Pringle (33.3) and Scottie Thompson (33.2), and San Miguel’s Mo Tautuaa (33).

The PBA, however, has yet to issue details on the individual awards, particularly the most valuable player award, for its coronavirus pandemic-hit season.