FATE couldn’t have scripted a more electrifying moment for the Meralco Bolts.

A money shot in the dying seconds from a star who has endured long years of fruitless title bids  sealed the deal, at the expense of the club long seen as the gold standard of the PBA — mighty San Miguel Beer (SMB).

In their Father’s Day Game 6, the Bolts shed the almost-but-not-quite reputation they’ve been carrying the last few seasons to become the toast of the PBA Philippine Cup.

“It feels like a dream, but at the same time I put the work in for this so I know I deserve this. All the guys in that locker room deserve this as well. I see them work every single day and it’s nice to finally have that breakthrough championship for Meralco,” according to Chris Newsome, wearing the net on his neck shortly after Meralco ushered the SMB Death Squad to the gallows, 80-78, for a 4-2 series triumph.

“I cried tonight as well. Lots of emotions. To make it to the top of the mountain and get knocked down continuously and continuously and to get back up and climb it again and finally get it. You know, there’s not many words to describe it,” according to Chris Banchero, a championship cigar in his mouth.

The first time’s certainly the sweetest for Mr. Newsome, Mr. Banchero, Cliff Hodge and Anjo Caram, who have spent their PBA careers hunting for a title but falling short.

Mr. Hodge has been at it since 2012, Mr. Newsome, the Finals MVP who produced the game winner, since 2015 — all with Meralco. Ditto Anjo Caram, drafted in 2013. Mr. Banchero, who came on board in a 2019 trade, hit paydirt after heartbreaks dating back to his days with Alaska.

“The way God drew it up tonight is something special. June Mar (Fajardo) hit that (tying) three and I’m sure everybody thought that we were going to overtime. Then I threw that pass to Newsome, he knocked it down and the rest is literally history. So it’s a first for a lot of us,” Mr. Banchero said.

“Those guys, Cliff and Newsome and Anjo as well, have been there from their first day of their professional careers and my biggest motivation is for them to finally taste and get what they really deserve. And I’m so happy for them and I hope it’s not the last one they get,” consultant Nenad Vucinic, who has worked in tandem with head coach Luigi Trillo in whipping Meralco into championship form amid a trying campaign, said.

It’s been a winning streak of late for Mr. Hodge, Meralco’s longest tenured player and main hustle guy.

“I want to thank God. I’ve been praying a lot recently and he’s been answering all of my prayers. My wife is pregnant, we’ve been trying to have a baby for six years and she’s five months pregnant, He answered that prayer. I wanted to win the championship, He answered that prayer,” Mr. Hodge said.

As a PBA franchise, the Meralco Bolts have ended the longest wait for a maiden conference title at 13 seasons, eclipsing the 11 of Tanduay. Counting Meralco’s previous stint in the old MICAA, the ballclub hasn’t tasted a championship since 1971. — Olmin Leyba