Magnolia won a defensive battle for the ages with Rain or Shine on Sunday night, and as a reward for all the hard work, the Hotshots get a chance at winning the title every team in the PBA cherishes the most—and against a team that handled them fairly well in the Finals last season.
Rafi Reavis hit some crucial points in the stretch and grabbed the most important offensive board of the night, helping the Hotshots gut out a 63-60 overtime win over the Elasto Painters at Mall of Asia Arena to advance to the title series.
It was the lowest-scoring playoff game in league history, with regulation ending at 55-all and the Painters bungling an opportunity to win it right there.
Magnolia trailed by as large as 17 and needed to dig deep—and play its best defense in the conference—to get back in the fight and eventually steal this one in the end.
“We found a way. We were down. And I really didn’t know how we were able to come back,” an ecstatic Chito Victolero said in Filipino after leading the franchise to its 30th Finals appearance and a shot at its 15th title.
“I loved our grit, I loved our resiliency. Giving up was farthest from our minds.”
There were only four players from both teams combined that scored in twin digits, with Reavis finishing with eight that went with 20 rebounds and three blocks. San Miguel has won this conference an unprecedented four straight years and would be willing to add Magnolia as a footnote in extending that streak.
Victolero acknowledges being the underdog—again—but vows to give it their all.
“Nothing is impossible,” he said as the best-of-seven series starts Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao. “My players will be ready. We’ll give them a good fight.”
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