'BELIEVE' | Bouncing back from early adversity, Meralco draws 1st blood in PBA PH Cup Finals

Bong Quinto and the rest of the Bolts just believed they could beat the mighty Beermen, and in Game 1, they fired the first shot. Dennis Acosta
By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--Being in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals, one may not believe that Meralco was on the verge of early elimination from the conference.

However, this was the case in the preliminary phase.

The team started the All-Filipino Conference 1-3, an early far cry from their semifinal appearance in the Commissioner's Cup.

Then came a glimmer of hope that the Bolts would make it to the Top 8 easily as they won two of their next three games.

However, a shock defeat to the then-winless Converge FiberXers on April 21 dragged them down to 3-5, a half-game behind the eighth seed with three games left.

"When we dropped that game to Converge, everybody thought we were out and we didn't have a chance," Chris Newsome recalled the buzz that followed from the fans after that match.

Meralco, though, held on to its faith, and they were rewarded with three straight wins, including a huge win against San Miguel in their final elimination round game on May 4, which eventually earned them the third seed in the quarterfinals.

After cruising past the NLEX Road Warriors in the quarterfinals, the Bolts found themselves playing newfound rivals Barangay Ginebra in the semifinals.

However, despite bouncing back from a Game 1 defeat with consecutive wins including a shock blowout at the Dasmarinas Arena in Game 3, Meralco found itself in another adversity as Ginebra got two victories back to take a 3-2 series lead and send them to elimination.

But once again, the Bolts believed, and they won two do-or-die games to steal the series from the Gin Kings and set up a showdown with the Beermen for the championship.

"This team went through a lot of adversity to get where we're at right now, and I believe that adversity made us stronger," Newsome continued.

"It was our guys in the locker room and our organization that believed that we could do it."

Entering Game 1 on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum here, many Meralco fans brought placards with the word "Believe" written in them as their cheers and shouts echoed throughout the said arena.

Meralco fans brought in "Believe" placards inside the Smart Araneta Coliseum for Game 1. Dennis Acosta
"That's why you see the signs out there that say 'Believe' because that's something that we really embody. You really have to believe that you can get something done or you can accomplish something special as a group despite all the odds that are against you," Newsome added.

The combo guard further said that Meralco's appearance in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals against the ever-mighty SMB represents the underdogs from all walks of life.

"We're just here to represent all the people that have been doubted many times in their lives and careers, and we just want to continue to encourage you to believe in what you're doing. And eventually, good things will happen," Newsome continued.

And a good thing was exactly what happened to the Bolts on Wednesday night as they clipped the Beermen in Game 1 of the finals.

With the win, Meralco placed one foot forward to its first-ever PBA championship, which could culminate a period of just believing they could slay the giants.

As they focus on winning it all, the team will hold on to one mantra: "Believe."

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