If the Meralco Bolts want to have a legitimate chance at winning the 2024 Honda PBA Philippine Cup Finals, they had to draw first blood.

And that was what they just did.

The Bolts relied on a balanced effort to not only stymie the San Miguel Beermen, but also limited the Beermen  below 90 points for the first time in the 2024 Philippine Cup. Everyone understood their roles and did it well. The likes of Chris Newsome, Chris Banchero, Allein Maliksi, and Bong Quinto took care of the offense, while Raymond Almazan, Brandon Bates, and Cliff Hodge did the dirty work. SMB had the opportunity to flex their championship prowess and establish themselves, but they ended up getting bullied in a 93-86 Meralco victory.


In essence, these are the qualities of a championship team. The roles are defined and the execution is pretty much done to perfection. It certainly helps that the Bolts have been battle-tested this season, as they went the distance against the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings in the previous series. Meralco also competed in the East Asia Super League (EASL), where they earned the distinction of being the first Philippine team to win an EASL game.

But having the qualities of a title squad and actually being one are two different things. Winning one game matters only in that San Miguel will have an uphill climb. Being three wins away can feel like both a long and short journey especially with how things can change, so you can understand the excitement and the apprehensions at this point.

A win by the Beermen in Game 2 will obviously even things up and they are talented enough to do so, but the Bolts can prevent that by wearing SMB down. The offense will always be there, but when Meralco’s defense can hold San Miguel to record lows, it becomes a level playing field. However, the Bolts will have to play smarter moving forward as a foul here and there could derail their strategy and have them searching for answers.

The championship round in any competition is a test of will and that’s what we’re seeing in the early portion of the 2024 Honda PBA Philippine Cup Finals. Everyone is pretty much tired at this point having played in either two competitions or long championship campaigns.

The Meralco Bolts showed that they may have a little bit more left in the tank and if they make good use of that, they can finally get that elusive PBA title.