by Jonas Terrado
Game Wednesday (Ynares Center, Antipolo City)
7 p.m. – Magnolia vs Alaska
(Magnolia leads series 3-2)
Paul Lee let out all of the emotions he had inside after hitting the shot that mattered most as the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok moved onto the threshold of winning the PBA Governors’ Cup crown.
Lee’s baseline jumper with 1.3 seconds left capped off a thrilling finish to give the Hotshots a 79-78 over the Alaska Aces and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The closest match of the title showdown boiled down to a game of inches, with Alaska appeared to have secure victory when Mike Harris blocked Romeo Travis’ driving layup, the ball bouncing at the right elbow.
Aces forward Kevin Racal went for the dive in hopes of securing possession, but Lee beat him in a split-second, setting up the Best Player of the Conference’s winning basket that came despite missing nine of his previous 12 attempts.
Jubilation rocked the side of the Magnolia faithful while stunned faces were obvious on the Alaska gallery that included owner Fred Uytengsu and United States ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim.
Alaska had a final chance at salvaging a victory, with Chris Banchero throwing a long heave for Mike Harris underneath. But the inbound was too difficult for Harris to get a good look and was forced to miss a fadeaway jumper off Travis at the buzzer.
“It was God’s will,” Magnolia coach Chito Victolero on the heroics of Lee, who also saved the Hotshots for sure defeat a few seconds earlier.
Magnolia goes for its first championship since winning the Grand Slam in 2014 on Wednesday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City as the league takes a five-day break for Sunday’s Rookie Draft at the Robinsons Place in Manila.
The Aces had a good chance of taking a 78-74 lead when Jake Pascual found Racal for a potential basket and a four-point lead.
But Lee forced Racal to miss a bank shot, setting up an end-to-end action that ended when Ian Sangalang converted a three-point play off a Banchero foul to put Magnolia in front, 77-76, with 18.7 seconds left.
MAGNOLIA 79 – Sangalang 20, Barroca 14, Jalalon 13, Lee 11, Travis 10, Herndon 6, Dela Rosa 4, Reavis 1, Melton 0, Brondial 0.
ALASKA 78 – Harris 28, Racal 13, Enciso 13, Pascual 6, Exciminiano 5, Cruz 4, Banchero 3, Teng 2, Manuel 2, Casio 2, Baclao 0.
Quarters: 29-28, 53-40, 65-62, 79-78