Hotshots topple Kings; Bolts gain
It was all about streak in the PBA Governors’ Cup playoffs with Magnolia ending a seven-match slump, Meralco sustaining its incredible run and Alaska breaking a two-year jinx last week.
The Hotshots pulled off the most notable feat by hacking out a 106-98 decision over defending champion and elimination topnotcher Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings at the start of their best-of-five semifinal duel on Saturday.
It was Magnolia’s first win over Ginebra, which was looking for a repeat of its 93-86 victory last Oct. 28 and its eighth straight over its sister squad since prevailing in Game 7 of their 2017 Commissioner’s Cup semifinal playoffs.
The Bolts, who started with six losses in their first seven games, went on to post six wins from there capped by back-to-back conquests of the Phoenix Fuel Masters to also reach the Final Four against Alaska.
Seeded seventh at 5-6 in the quarterfinals, Meralco blasted the second-ranked Phoenix, 90-74, to force a deciding game which the Bolts also took, this time in overtime, 108-103.
The Bolts, the losing finalists to the Gin Kings in the last two seasons, became only the 13th team in 114 matchups to overcome the twice-to-beat advantage of its rival. It was also the fifth time the lower seed in the No.7-No. 2 pairing prevailed.
A favorite whipping boy of San Miguel Beer in their last four playoff encounters, three of them for the title, Alaska finally found a way out of the rut when the normally fiery shooting Beermen could score only seven points in the third quarter and eventually dropped their quarterfinal showdown to the Aces, 96-85, on Wednesday.
The Beermen were looking forward to forcing another playoff with the third-ranked Aces to reach the semifinals after placing sixth in the eliminations with June Mar Fajardo missing most of the campaign with a foot injury.
Ginebra whipped NLEX, 111-75, in the quarterfinals to improve its leading conference mark to 10-2 while Magnolia struggled past Blackwater, 103-99, for a 9-3 overall mark early last week.
With import Justin Brownlee firing 20 of his 37 points in the first period, Ginebra looked set to sweep past Magnolia again with an early 14-point lead. But the Hotshots found a savior in Paul Lee, who scattered 27 to back up a similar 37-point but conference-high output by Romeo Travis.
Lee fired his last six in an eight-point run for a 103-93 Magnolia lead with barely a minute left.
Game 1 of the Meralco-Alaska duel was going on at press time at Ynares Antipolo while Game 2 of the Magnolia-Ginebra encounter is set Monday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
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