06 October 2016

Meralco Bolts and Sta. Lucia Realtors on a Similar Path

All-Filipino Champs
There is something eerie about the way the Meralco Bolts clinched their first ever Finals slot in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) 2016 Governor's Cup, not because of the way it won three straight against the vaunted Talk 'N Text KaTropa, but on the similarities between it style and that of the the defunct Sta. Lucia Realtors.

After trading Jun Limpot to the Barangay Ginebra Kings for Marlou Aquino the year before, the Sta. Lucia Realtors did not accomplish much during the PBA All-Filipino Cup in 2001. They had one of the worst record at that time having won only four out of ten games.

In the Commissioner's Cup, Ansu Sesay was again signed by Sta. Lucia as import. However, unlike in 200 where he was able to carry the team for their first ever Finals appearance, Sesay was hobbled with injuries as the Realtors were ease out of contention by the Alaska Aces in their quarterfinal match-up.

However, in the Governor's Cup, Sta. Lucia signed Damian Owens as import, and the Realtors quickly dominated the tournament to secure their second finals appearance against the heavily favored San Miguel team.

After both team's split their series in Game Four, the Realtors won both Games 5 and 6. Game Six was the most dramatic as the game was tightly contested. After San Miguel import Lamont Strothers tied the game at 72 with an off-balanced runner, Chris Tan hit a 24-foot three-pointer with three seconds remaining to give Sta. Lucia the lead for good. The win gave them their first-ever PBA championship with a 75–72 Game 6 win and a 4–2 series victory.

It was coach Norman Black's second season with the Realtors.

Fast-forward to the present.

Five years after the Sta. Lucia franchise was acquired by Meralco, the team has yet to barge into the Finals despite having some notable players in their roster. Three seasons later and with no title or any significant achievement to show, the team pried coach Black from TNT and replace Ryan Gregorio.

After drafting Chris Newsome and Baser Amer in the first round, the Meralco Bolts failed to impress the crowd and finished with the worst record in franchise history, 1-10.

They turn their misfortunes around and even had a winning streak in the Commissioner's Cup after they brought in ex-Maccabi Tel Aviv BC player Arinze Onuaku as import. After reaching the Final Four, the Bolts fell to the Alaska Aces in five games. The team's campaign was also highlighted by the suspension of erstwhile top-gunner Gary David due to insubordination. David later removed in the line-up and moved to the unrestricted agent list.

Like the Realtors, the Bolts bounced back from a dismal All-Filipino performance and reached the Finals in the Governor's Cup. Like the Realtors, they are coached by Black, who was in his second season both times.

Meanwhile, let's relive once again the dagger three thrown by Tan into the hearts of the Beermen in 2001. Tan is Black's stepson.

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