Their first win in the PBA was huge. It was off a game-winner from Mark Cardona, who spun away from two defenders to bank in a one-handed teardrop.
“Whatever happens, I think they’ve made a strong first impression dito sa opening day,” said TV analyst Mico Halili.
“This is a big statement on their part. They showed a lot of composure here and a lot of depth,” said co-anchor Quinito Henson.
They said this before Cardona even attempted the shot, with Meralco still down by a point. Their opponents, the Barangay Ginebra Kings, had a chance to win the game after Asi Taulava missed two freethrows, but Willie Miller fumbled the ball in the final possession.
“Nakachamba sa huli,” Mark Cardona said in his first-ever postgame interview as a Bolt.
The big win came at the expense of a favored Ginebra squad–the PBA’s resident life of the party–which had Mark Caguioa, Jayjay Helterbrand, Eric Menk, Rudy Hatfield, and Miller. Meralco had Cardona, Taulava, Nelbert Omolon, pre-extra rice Beau Belga, and pre-Finals MVP Chris Ross.
Ginebra’s muse was Anne Curtis, Meralco brought 14 employees.
Whatever momentum Meralco gained from that win, it didn’t last long as they dropped the next two games. The Bolts finished the All-Filipino season with a respectable 7-7 record to bag the fifth playoff spot. In the playoffs, they were unceremoniously swept by B-Meg Derby Ace.
The team later acquired Sol Mercado, Reynel Hugnatan, and Renren Ritualo to boost the offense. But the win-loss record didn’t get any better. The victory against Ginebra on opening day was more a fluke than a sign of things to come for the young squad that took over the Sta. Lucia franchise.
Before tipoff, Mico Halili said of Meralco: “What better way to start their PBA story than to defeat Ginebra on opening day.” Now, their PBA story will be rewritten if they defeat Ginebra in the 2016 Governors’ Cup Finals.
The Meralco Bolts have always been at the corner of the room, waiting for their chance to shine. They’re always on the cusp of greatness, but never seemed to break through. That was Meralco then. Today, the team no longer has the same players on the roster. And their wins are no longer called chamba.
THE ROSTER (Philippine Cup): Mark Cardona, Asi Taulava, Marlou Aquino, Pong Escobal, Beau Belga, Chris Ross, Dennis Daa, Gabby Espinas, Ogie Menor, Chris Pacana, Nelbert Omolon
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[Video from YouTube]