Putting one over formidable Alaska is an encouraging sign for Meralco. Doing that on a consistent basis is a different thing.
Although he is convinced that the Bolts have what it takes, veteran playmaker Jimmy Alapag admitted consistency will be the ultimate key against the Aces as their 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals series has been reduced to a virtual best-of-three affair starting with Game 3 on Friday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
After dropping a 94-97 decision in the opener last Monday, Meralco appeared on the verge of falling into a precarious 0-2 series hole when it trailed by as many as 14 points in the fourth canto before staging a strong surge on the way to a come-from-behind 92-87 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday night.
How the Bolts displayed grit under pressure, something that they hardly showed during their one-win campaign in the season-opening Philippine Cup, pleased Alapag, 38, no end.
“This process with our team going back in the conference, it’s a struggle. But now that we’re here in the semis, the chemistry and the effort are getting better,’ said Alapag, visibly glad with the Bolts’ first-ever victory in the semifinal since the 2013 PBA Governors Cup.
“Our guys believe that we belong here and that’s a great thing. We’re up against a championship team with a great coach. It will take a championship type effort for a team that is not necessarily used to being on that stage and we’re getting there. Tonight is a big step forward.’
After missing his first five attempts from the field, Alapag came through just when the Bolts needed him the most, knocking down a cold-blooded triple that helped stretch their surge from a 63-77 deficit while providing stability in running their offensive plays in the crunch.
Having the chance to experience those clutch moments anew is something Alapag cherishes the most since coming out of brief retirement last year.
“It feels great,” he said, who carrying his daughter Keona Skye. “This time last year I was in the sidelines as a manager cheering on Ivan (Johnson) and the guys of Talk ‘N Text. Getting back there and competing and to have my baby here, it means the world to me. The fact that they can be long for this journey, it means everything.”
Alapag, however, warned the Bolts cannot afford to let their guards down in the pivotal Game 3 that he described as “the biggest game of the series.”
“They’ve been here and, again, we’re just in the process of being here consistently,’ he said. “But I think tonight’s a big win for our team. Another big step forward and most importantly, it keep us alive in the series now. All our focus shifts on Friday because that’s the biggest game of the series.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
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