Finally, Meralco pulled one over Barangay Ginebra.
Though squandering a huge 21-point lead, the Bolts got the money off their back, hurdling the Gin Kings in a playoff showdown at long last with a 106-104 Sunday thriller that sent Meralco to a return trip to the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.
Ending a hunt for the elusive first playoff win over Ginebra, the Bolts joined the march of the top seeds to the Last Four.
It's a twin explosive setto pitting heavyweights from corporate rivals San Miguel Corp. and the MVP Group.
Disposing of No. 4 Barangay Ginebra, the gritty bunch of Bolts acting coach Luigi Trillo set a best-of-seven semis tango with top seed San Miguel Beer beginning Wednesday at the Big Dome.
The other semis pairing pits second seed TNT Tropang Giga and No. 3 Magnolia.
"We just proved that if you're relentless, if you keep the fight, great things will happen," said Chris Newsome, a vital cog with a 21-point, 12-assist and 10-rebound triple-double game.
"We enjoyed the challenge of playing Ginebra; it's something that we look forward to and we finally pulled through. And it's nice to have the monkey off our back," said Newsome as they slew the ghosts of six playoff losses to the Gin Kings.
But it wasn't easy even as they erected a 21-point lead in the third period.
With their never-say-die attitude, the Kings chipped away and even got ahead at 104-103 on a booming trey from LA Tenorio entering the final minute of the game.
But Meralco just wouldn't be denied, with Raymond Almazan answering back with a three-pointer of his own, and the Bolts gallantly hanging on to complete their disposal of their long pesky rivals.
It took Meralco a complete team effort with Cliff Hodge, Aaron Black, Allein Maliksi, Bong Quinto and Alvin Pasaol complementing the efforts of Newsome and Almazan.
Hodge had his big numbers with 18 boards and 13 markers, Black rifled in 17 while Maliksi, Quinto and Pasaol added 12, 11 and 11, respectively.
Ginebra coach Tim Cone relied heavily on his starters who all put in big numbers.
Scottie Thompson top scored with 26 with Christian Standhardinger adding 23, Japeth Aguilar 21, and both Stanley Pringle and LA Tenorio with 12.
They had a chance to send the game into overtime, but Pringle misfired a 10-footer.
With a 25-2 advantage on bench points, the Bolts took the half at 55-42, with Quinto scoring nine, including the finisher in a court-to-court Meralco heave in the final second. (SB)