by Jonas Terrado
Game Friday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. — San Miguel vs Magnolia
(Magnolia leads series 1-0)
Magnolia overcame a June Mar Fajardo-led rally by San Miguel Beer in the final minutes to eke out a 99-94 victory in the start of their PBA Philippine Cup Finals showdown at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots nearly squandered a 91-82 lead in the final six minutes as the Beermen tried to tie the score behind Fajardo, who scored 13 straight points to reduced the gap to 95-94 with 1:29 remaining.
But Ian Sangalang scored a midrange jumper 13 seconds later to make it 97-94 before withstanding three chances by San Miguel to tie the score.
Chris Ross, Arwind Santos and the scoreless Marcio Lassiter muffed their three-point tries and Magnolia’s Paul Lee converted two foul shots to seal the final count.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero lauded his team’s defensive effort after San Miguel led 55-52 at the half in order to gain a headstart in the best-of-seven title affair.
“I talked to my players because halftime that we can’t beat San Miguel in an offensive game and they were able to respond to our challenge of playing defense in the second half,” said Victolero.
Magnolia goes for its second straight win in Sunday’s Game 2 at the same venue.
But the Hotshots’ offense also was a key as six players scored in double figures while playing with more energy on both ends despite a hard-fought seven-game semis triumph over Rain or Shine that ended last Sunday.
Lee scored 18 points, Sangalang and Mark Barroca had 17 points each, Jio Jalalon produced 16 and veteran center Rafi Reavis and Justin Melton 12 and 11.
Fajardo finished with 35 points and 21 rebounds but the Beermen fell short despite having the luxury of a six-day rest following a five-game semis victory over Phoenix Pulse.
Alex Cabagnot posted 18 points and Von Pessumal hit all four shots to finish with 11 points.
But Santos, Ross, Christian Standhardinger and Finals debutant Terrence Romeo combined for 9-of-37 from the field as the Beermen struggled to find consistency on the offensive end.