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Meralco’s Breakthrough Victory Propels Momentum Forward

The stunning win over Japan’s B.League champion Ryukyu Golden Kings has given the Meralco Bolts a significant confidence boost in their busy December schedule in both the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the East Asia Super League (EASL).

Meralco’s 97-88 overtime victory in Macau on Wednesday not only put the PBA on the winning column in the regional league’s first home-and-away season, but also solidified the team’s status as one of the contenders for the Commissioner’s Cup crown.

“We will have to double our efforts and focus this December,” said coach Luigi Trillo, whose Bolts are still in contention for a Final Four spot in the EASL despite a 1-2 record in Group B while maintaining hold on third spot in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at 5-1.

The Bolts have two domestic games before Christmas in Converge on Sunday and Barangay Ginebra on Dec. 22 before spending the PBA’s holiday break to focus on EASL.

Meralco hosts South Korea’s Seoul SK Knights on Dec. 27 and the Jeremy Lin-led New Taipei City Kings on Jan. 3.

Four-point play

A four-point play by Chris Newsome in the dying seconds of regulation enabled Meralco to force an extension at Studio City, which further established the different level the long-time Bolt has been performing at since winning the Hangzhou Asian Games gold medal with Gilas Pilipinas.

“He made all the hard ones,” said Trillo. “[Meralco consultant Nenad Vucinic] drew up a good play in the end that gave Chris the opportunity to hit that.”

Import Zach Lofton topscored for 35 points, a few days after dropping 54 on NorthPort in his PBA debut. He’ll still be the Bolts import on Sunday against the FiberXers at Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

“[The win against Ryukyu was] crucial because we kept our winning streak alive and it gave us another game playing with Zach,” said Trillo, pointing out Meralco’s three straight wins and four of five in all competitions.

“Now we focus our attention to our PBA schedule against Converge, then Ginebra.”