AS the player with the most playoff experience in a young Meralco team, Jimmy Alapag hopes to provide the inspiration and leadership the Bolts need in the most important game in the history of the franchise on Wednesday.
The Bolts square off with the fancied Alaska Aces at the Araneta Coliseum for the right to meet the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the finals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
It’s the closest Meralco has gotten to a first ever championship in its six-year stay in the league. As team captain and among the veterans along with Jared Dilinger and Reynel Hugnatan, Alapag said he’s more than willing to guide and lead the Bolts as they seek out another win over the Aces in the 7 p.m. encounter.
“I’m ready for whatever coach needs,” said the 38-year-old former league MVP heading into the deciding Game Five of the semifinals series. “And it could be an incredible feeling to help this team make the finals for the first time.”
Alapag had a quiet six points, three assists, and two steals in 29 minutes of play in Meralco’s 86-70 clobbering of Alaska in Game Four that paved the way for the do-or-die battle.
But as dominant the Bolts were the last time, Alapag is aware the team has to bring its A-game if the Bolts are to repeat against the Aces.
“We need to come out with an even better effort in Game Five if we are to make the finals,” said the senior point guard, who has won numerous championships with Tropang TNT before.
Alaska’s experience could also come to fore, the team having been in the finals three times in the league’s last four conferences.
“We’re up against a championship experience team with a head coach with whom we have the utmost respect for,” he said of the Aces, coached by Alex Compton. “You can’t count out championship experience at all, and they have a lot of it.”
But as long as the Bolts can play steady basketball against the Aces, Alapag said Meralco would be fine.
“Here we are, down to the last game. It’s gonna come down to effort and execution and on which team could make plays,” said the Meralco playmaker.