A grand slam of sorts for SMC
A flying start and a blazing finish.
This was the script masterfully followed by the Magnolia Hotshots in blasting the Alaska Aces, four games to two, in their best of seven championship series to clinch the 2018 Governors’ Cup championship last week.
The victory completed a grand slam of sorts for the San Miguel Corp. franchise following the success of the San Miguel Beermen in the Philippine Cup last April and the victory of the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings last August.
That the Beermen won a record fourth straight Philippine Cup over the Hotshots and the Gin Kings stopped the same Beermen in their bid for a second straight title for the year further underscored the unchallenged dominance of the SMC franchise, which now has a leading total of 68 championships from its three teams after 43 seasons of the play-for-pay league. SMB holds the most titles with 23 followed by Magnolia with 14 and Ginebra with 11.
Magnolia’s triumph, the first for coach Chito Victolero after replacing Jason Webb last year, was a stunner for experts who were expecting a humdinger Game 7 following Magnolia’s miraculous 79-78 escape in Game 5 that broke a 2-2 series tie the Aces had forged behind two impressive wins anchored on the explosive shooting of Best Import awardee Mike Harris.
But after being held to only 10 points just two nights ago, Romeo Travis accounted for five in a sizzling 12-0 Magnolia start in Game 6 that recalled the Hotshots’ 15-0 opening salvo in Game 1. The Aces didn’t recover from the blistering Magnolia takeoff with Travis, who unloaded 50 points when the Hotshots eliminated sister team and two-time defending champion Ginebra in the semifinals, winding up with a game-high 34 as he completely outshone Harris.
It was actually a face-saving show for Travis, who was named Best Import while playing for Alaska in the same tournament during the 2014-2015 season but was helpless in the Finals as San Miguel Beer crushed the Aces in four games.
Honored as Finals MVP was Mark Barroca, who combined with Paul Lee and Jio Jalalon in providing the hustle, defense and fire from the backcourt that stymied the Aces, now winless in their last five trips to the Finals. Barroca was slapped a P50,000 fine for a low blow on Chris Banchero in Game 4 but remained a key factor in the last two games of the series.
Ian Sangalang also delivered for Magnolia, particularly in Game 5 where he combined with Lee, the Best Player of the Conference, in the clutch to nip the Aces, who badly missed the shooting of Vic Manuel. Bothered by a bad back, Manuel had only two points in Game 5 then sat out Game 6.