Even Cliff Hodge would agree that Monday was probably his best game in the biggest stage of his professional career.
“In my whole career, high school, college, this is probably my best game ever,” he quipped.
And it truly may have been, with the energetic forward providing the biggest basket to seal a monumental 32-point performance, draining the backbreaking three to secure Meralco its first ever PBA Finals appearance after a 94-88 victory over TNT in Game 4 of their semifinals tiff.
“I mean, you got to shoot to make it so I said I’m gonna let it fly,” said Hodge, just moments after draining the huge trey in the final 37.9 seconds of the game as the Bolts breathe that sigh of relief.
“They were helping. The defense had to help on AD (Durham) a lot, so I was just spotting up.”
“Before the game, I was getting a lot of threes up and my shot felt really good, so I knew it was going to be a good game. I just had to stay composed, stay calm and knock them down.”
And knock them down, Hodge did, and now, Meralco is into the 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals.
“I was actually speechless after the game. I didn’t know, it’s a surreal feeling. Now that we finally got here, we don’t want to waste it because it took us four years to get here, so we’re gonna come out and try to win this,” he said.
Playing his entire PBA career in Meralco, Hodge could only look back on the journey the team travelled, the pains and heartbreaks it had to deal with as the Bolts now look forward to the biggest task ahead.
“That first conference was an eye-opener,” he reflected on Meralco’s disastrous Philippine Cup outing. “We lost a lot of close games and after that conference, we all got in the gym and we decided that we’re going to switch this around. That second conference, we got all the way, almost a minute into the Finals. We’ve just grown as a team, that’s what it is. We’re just playing as a team and it’s great.”
If you’re going to dream, dream big, and that’s certainly what Hodge wants, motivating himself as the Bolts lay idle in the championship series. But the Fil-Am banger admits he has a preference on which team he wants the Bolts to face off for the hardware.
“I want Ginebra,” he said. “I love playing against the crowd. When it’s a big crowd, everyone’s feeling the adrenaline.”