by Jonas Terrado
The Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok and Alaska Aces will get a chance at ending years of frustration when they meet in the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals which starts Dec. 5 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Magnolia and Alaska have stared at the championship multiple times in the past four years only to come up short either against San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra, two teams with combined for nine titles during that stretch.
Both teams did it the hard way in order arrange a best-of-seven showdown, with Magnolia having to overcome Ginebra in the semis and Alaska by way of old tormentor San Miguel in the quarterfinals and two-time runner-up Meralco in the Final Four behind Best Import frontrunner Mike Harris.
“We have to be much better if we wanna compete with Magnolia,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton, who is eyeing his first championship in his fifth appearance in the PBA’s grandest stage.
Compton and the Aces are hoping to finally get that elusive crown after disappointing finals defeats between 2015 and 2016. The most bitter, obviously, was the epic collapse in the 2016 Philippine Cup when the Aces blew a 3-0 lead against the Beermen.
Alaska is back in the finals after a disappointing 2017 when it failed to reach the quarterfinals in the last two conferences due to a 14-game skid.
The Aces take on Hotshots coach Chito Victolero, Compton’s former teammate with the Manila Metrostars of the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association.
Victolero has brought Magnolia back to prominence after a short period of struggles in the aftermath of Tim Cone’s departure for Ginebra.
He brought the then-Star Hotshots to three straight semis berths last season, but failed to reach the Finals of all three conferences.
Victolero’s biggest disappointment was in the 2017 Philippine Cup semis when the Hotshots squandered leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in a seven-game defeat to Ginebra.
Magnolia and Victolero did make a breakthrough finals in this season’s Philippine Cup but was beaten 4-1 by San Miguel.
The Hotshots were able to get a measure of revenge on Ginebra in the semis, with import Romeo Travis delivering 50 points in the series-clinching fourth game.
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