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Basketball

Meralco Bolts driven by championship aspirations

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After the Meralco Bolts fended off a tough challenge from the NLEX Road Warriors Monday night to advance to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals, wingman Jared Dillinger immediately tweeted:

The Bolts are seven wins away from winning the conference title, which puts perspective to what has been an impressive campaign so far.

And having been given the big opportunity to accomplish the goal, the Bolts are pumped up and driven.

“Absolutely. We feel more confident in ourselves. Everyone’s believing that we can do something special here. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, we want to take it one game at a time. We know the playoffs. I’ve been down this road. Jimmy (Alapag) has been down this road. The play-offs is entirely different from the eliminations. It is going to be tough,” Dillinger said.

Cliff Hodge

Unlike in the Philippine Cup, where the Bolts disappointed and simply played each game for the sake of finishing the elimination round, the team’s body language is different this time. Confidence is evident; there is a collective drive to succeed. The Bolts know they have been presented with an opportunity that they cannot pass up.

“You only get certain chances like this in the PBA. We have a great import, everyone is clicking at the right time. We want to take advantage of it and go as far as possible,” Cliff Hodge said.

“We are just going to go with what we have. You always know who your match-up is going to be. We will just stick to our game. I feel good. We are pretty confident we can handle business.”

Photo courtesy of PBA Images

Photo courtesy of PBA Images

The arrival of Arinze Onuaku (19.8 PPG, 18 RPG) has transformed the Bolts into the conference’s top defensive team. On offense, his presence has made the rest of the team look better. Three locals have averaged double-digit scoring, with three more averaging at least seven points per outing.

“It’s great we’re back in the semis. It starts with Arinze. He draws so much attention and he is a smart player. It’s so simple. I think as team, we just have to feed off him, knock down shots, we need to play our style of basketball,” Dillinger added.

With everything aligning for the Bolts, the mindset is to try and win it all. Although the actual road will be daunting, just the mere opportunity excites the crew.

“It’s exciting. We made two semis appearances in five conferences together, that is a big accomplishment. The thing now for us is we can’t be satisfied,” assistant coach Luigi Trillo shared, adding the Bolts are beginning to exemplify what great teams do.

“(Contenders), you can see them fighting. For us to take a page out of that and see the guys not give up, it’s a really huge win for the franchise.”

So don’t be surprised if the Bolts end up hoisting the franchise’s first-ever championship in the league, because that is their goal.

“You got a guy like Jimmy, we got other vets on this team that has been there. We’re going to take advantage of it. We are trying to win a championship to be honest. It starts with one game at a time,” Dillinger added.

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