Sangalang outduels Fajardo as Magnolia pulls off Game 1 stunner

STAR. Ian Sangalang shines the brightest as the Magnolia Hotshots stun the San Miguel Beermen in Game 1 of the Philippine Cup finals. Photo by PBA Images

STAR. Ian Sangalang shines the brightest as the Magnolia Hotshots stun the San Miguel Beermen in Game 1 of the Philippine Cup finals.

Photo by PBA Images

MANILA, Philippines – Ian Sangalang was every bit the star people have been raving about as he led Magnolia Hotshots' Game 1 triumph in the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup finals. 

Sangalang fired 29 points to go with 9 rebounds and two steals to help the Hotshots erase a 20-point deficit en route to a thrilling 105-103 win over the reigning 3-time All-Filipino champions San Miguel Beermen Friday, March 23. 

Facing 4-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, the 26-year-old more than held his own, most especially in the payoff period.

Sangalang scored 14 points in the 4th quarter alone, matching San Miguel's whole output in the period. He also sank two go-ahead freebies that proved the difference in the tighly contested duel. 

With the game tied at 103-all, the former NCAA MVP posted up Fajardo and fished for a shooting foul. He then calmly sank his freebies to give Magnolia the upper hand. 

While a matchup against Fajardo, a 6-foot-11, 122-kilogram behemoth, may look like a huge mismatch for him, Sangalang, who is relatively smaller at 6-foot-7 and 98 kg, knew he had to believe in himself to be competitive against the league's most dominant player. 

"Siguro thinink ko na lang sa sarili ko na kaya ko, lalaban ako kahit anong mangyari kasi nasa finals na kami. Kasi bihira ngang makarating sa final. So kahit sinong babantayan ko diyan, ilalagay ko sa isip ko na kaya ko," said Sangalang. 

(I guess I just thought that I can match up with anyone, that I will fight it out whatever  happens since it's already the finals. Getting to the finals is not easy. So whoever I have to guard, I will always tell myself that I can do it.) 

Fajardo still finished with game-highs of 31 points, 18 rebounds, and 3 blocks. However, he committed 11 turnovers, errors that were pivotal in Magnolia's come-from-behind victory. 

To some, Sangalang's performance may come as a suprise but to teammate and mentor Marc Pingris, it has been a long time coming for the Kapampangan to showcase his wares in the league's grandest stage. 

Pingris is currently sidelined due to an ACL injury he sustained during the semifinals

"Sinabi ko sa kanya na lagpasan niya 'yung laro niya dati. At ang sinabi ko rin sa kanya, marami ka pang maibubuga, gagaling ka pa. Then tignan mo naman ngayon, kahit si June Mar e, talagang kahit papaano, kinakaya-kaya niya," said Pingris. 

(I told him that he should outdo his previous game. I also told him that he still has a lot more to offer, that he can still become better. You can see now, he can go toe-to-toe with June Mar.) 

"I believe na malayo pa 'yung mararating ni Ian (I believe that Ian can reach greater heights)."

Sangalang and the Hotshots will try to take a 2-0 series lead when they face San Miguel on Sunday, March 25, for Game 2 at the Mall of Asia Arena. –

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.