NON-participant in PBA finals just in the last four conferences, San Miguel is aching for return, and it has been evident in the Beermen's showing from their first game in Season 47 Philippine Cup.
And it's apparent in the kickoff of their Final Four showdown with the Meralco Bolts.
CJ Perez and his teammates jumpstarted their bid, pounding and pummeling the Bolts from the get-go en route to a 121-97 demolition job and a good head start in the race-to-four-games series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday.
It's a complete annihilation of the team that beat them in their last two playoff entanglements, and spoke well of the Beermen's determination for a finals return and a shot at the crown that was theirs from 2014 to 2019.
Coach Leo Austria said they covered all the bases as they also braced for any eventuality against the team he expected to be very tough coming from their conquest of Barangay Ginebra.
"Meralco iyan, at dalawang beses kaming ipinahiya niyan sa bubble," said Austria.
"Pero tinalo namin sila sa energy. I was surprised with the energy shown by our players. But it's just one game of a long series," he added.
It was a breakaway triumph touched off by a 10-0 opening tear by the Perez-led starting unit.
As June Mar Fajardo rode the bench on two quick fouls, Perez spearheaded their assault, firing away 18 points that was complemented by Rodney Brondial's 10 and Vic Manuel's eight off the bench as SMB raced to a 60-41 halftime lead.
And the Beermen kept their foot on the gas pedal to complete a dominant wire-to-wire victory against the lone non-Top 4 seeds to make the semis.
The Beermen blasted the Bolts, 18-0, on points from turnovers; 38-30 on points inside the paint and 19-4 on fastbreaks in the first 24 minutes of play.
So fluid and sleek was the Beermen's offense that they committed just five turnovers as against the Bolts' 10 in the first half.
Perez finished with 25 points while Brondial came through with a career-high 20 markers on top of 11 boards as Manuel, Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter added 16, 11 and 10, respectively.
Raymond Almazan led the losing team with 16.
"Di naman ako conscious sa points, mas conscious ako sa rebounding," said Brondial, shortly after what's easily his brightest performance in a playoff game.
"Kung ano maitutulong, kung ano ang pwedeng ibigay at kung ano ang pwedeng isuporta kay June Mar, (ibibigay ko)," added Brondial. (SB)
San Miguel 121 - Perez 25, Brondial 20, Manuel 16, Fajardo 11, Lassiter 10, Cruz 9, Tautuaa 8, Enciso 8, Herndon 7, Pessumal 5, Ross 2.
Meralco 97 -Banchero 17, Almazan 16, Kose 12, Hodge 11, Newsome 9, Quinto 9, Pascual 9, Black 8, Caram 4, Maliksi 2, Belo 0, Pasaol 0, Baclao 0.
Quarters: 33-17, 60-41, 85-64, 121-97