Magnolia Pambansang Manok finally landed the knockout blow on Meralco and took the sixth game of their semifinal series, 93-85, Friday, Oct. 15 to secure a spot in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Plenty of heroes emerged in the series-clinching match that sent the Hotshots their third championship shot in the last four editions of the All-Filipino, a tournament the Purefoods franchise traditionally does well since it started out in 1988 under the Ayala ownership.
For the 17th time, the squad currently under the San Miguel Corporation umbrella enters the finals of the PBA’s most prestigious conference against either TNT or San Miguel Beer.
Deadlocked at 3-3, the Tropang Giga and Beermen play a deciding seventh game on Sunday for the right to take on the Hotshots in another best-of-seven series which starts next week.
But coach Chito Victolero said finishing off Meralco didn’t come without plenty of challenges, even though Magnolia set the pace by taking the first two games and later putting a stranglehold on the series with a 3-1 lead.
The Hotshots lost Game 5 and allowed the Bolts to score the first 11 points of the contest.
“Credit to all of them kasi grabe talaga yung tinrabaho nila. Alam namin na sobrang mahihirapan kami,” said Victolero. “We faced the No. 2 team, talagang grabe yung effort na binibigay din ng Meralco.”
Ian Sangalang, the most consistent performer in the semis, had 19 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks as Magnolia took the series, 4-2.
But it was Rome dela Rosa and Jio Jalalon who played a big part in the clincher with their play on both ends of the floor.
Dela Rosa posted a conference-high 16 points while adding five rebounds. He made four triples, including back-to-back makes that put Magnolia up 39-35 after being down 33-24 early in the second.
He also kept his effort on defending Meralco’s Chris Newsome, who shot 3-of-10 despite putting up 14 points.
Jalalon added 11 points and seven rebounds, five coming on the offensive glass that took the life out of Meralco during its comeback bid in the second half. The Magnolia guard also had four assists.
Raymond Almazan tried to keep Meralco’s campaign alive with 16 points and 12 rebounds but it was yet another semifinal exit for coach Norman Black’s wards.
MAGNOLIA 93 — Sangalang 19, Dela Rosa 16, Barroca 16, Abueva 11, Jalalon 11, Melton 6, Reavis 6, Corpuz 4, Lee 4, Ahanmisi 0, Dionisio 0.
MERALCO 85 — Almazan 16, Maliksi 13, Newsome 14, Pinto 10, Hodge 9, Quinto 7, Caram 7, Hugnatan 6, Belo 3, Pasaol 0, Black 0, Jamito 0.
Quarters: 20-27, 44-40, 72-68, 93-85.