Kings no more
ANTIPOLO—A series this beautiful deserves a rubber match—unless you asked Romeo Travis and the Magnolia Hotshots.
Getting a bad break in the end and looking dead in the water inside the final two minutes on Friday night, the Hotshots put together a mighty stand in the clutch and closed out a classic best-of-five Final Four series against Barangay Ginebra with a 112-108 victory in the PBA Governors’ Cup at a loud Ynares Center here.
After failing to lead his team to a sweep of the Gin Kings on Wednesday, a hobbling Travis chalked up a career-high 50 points, including the biggest three-point play of the night that gave the Hotshots the lead for good ,108-106, heading into the final 44.1 seconds.
Travis was held down to a career-low 12 points in Game 3, but, with a determined stand Friday that pushed Magnolia to its second Finals stint this season, made a strong case for the Best Import award against either Mike Harris of Alaska or Allen Durham of Meralco.
The 3-1 series win meant that Ginebra got dethroned after ruling the season-closing conference for the last two seasons, and it truly signals the arrival of the Hotshots as a perennial force. Magnolia was the losing finalist to San Miguel Beer in this season’s Philippine Cup.
Magnolia will face the winner of the Alaska-Meralco series, which the Aces lead and will try to wrap up Saturday at Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay.
“It was all heart, adrenaline,” Travis, LeBron James’ close buddy, told a televised interview just after the final buzzer when asked how he willed himself through a feared hamstring injury. “I don’t want to play a Game 5, I wouldn’t have been able to play a Game 5 the way my leg hurt.”
Travis will get a lot of time to recuperate with the conference to take a break after the Alaska-Meralco series to give way to the Philippines’ participation in the Fiba World Cup Qualifying series that ends on Dec. 3.
After taking a 106-101 lead with 1:44 left courtesy of two Justin Brownlee free throws off Paul Lee, the Kings went scoreless for 1:30.
Ginebra was ahead by two when it caught a key break going into the final two minutes. Brownlee slapped a Lee layup that had already kissed glass, but no goaltending violation was called. Instead, a technical was whistled on coach Chito Victolero, who complained forcefully about the non-call.
LA Tenorio made the free throw and then a Lee error led to two more Brownlee free throws for that five-point hole that the Hotshots had 144 seconds to climb out of.
Incidentally, the Hotshots will be shooting to win the Governors’ Cup for the first time since 2014, when they completed a Grand Slam with now Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
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