ANTIPOLO CITY, Philippines – Following repeated heartbreaks and years of falling short of the grand prize, Magnolia returned to supremacy.
The Hotshots halted a four-year title drought as they crowned themselves the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup champions with a 102-86 win over Alaska on Wednesday, December 19, at the Ynares Center here.
On the same place it dethroned two-time defending titlists Barangay Ginebra in the semifinals, Magnolia finished off the Aces in 6 games for its first title since the 2014 edition of the season-ending conference.
Import Romeo Travis was at the forefront of the Hotshots' attack, waxing hot for 32 points to go with 17 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals and served as the rallying force that saw his side break the game wide open in the first half.
Behind Travis' 18 first-half points spiked with 4 triples, Magnolia enjoyed a 60-42 lead and never looked back on the way to claiming the best-of-seven series at 4-2 for its 14th title in franchise history.
Although bested by Alaska reinforcement Mike Harris for the Best Import of the Conference award, Travis had the last laugh by winning his maiden PBA title in his second try.
It wasn't just Travis who shone for Magnolia as Ian Sangalang and Paul Lee chalked up 16 points apiece while Mark Barroca, who was named Finals Most Valuable Player, had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Jio Jalalon chipped in 11 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds and Rome dela Rosa added 7 markers, 2 boards and 2 dimes in the win.
The Hotshots gifted head coach Chito Victolero his first PBA champion while keeping Alaska tactician Alex Compton winless in the finals in his fifth try as a head coach.
"I don't know the feeling but nagtatalon ako. Sobrang saya ko (I don't know the feeling but I jumped. I'm super happy)," said Victolero when asked how it feels to finally win a championship.
"Lahat ng pinagpaguran namin from last year na talagang natuto kami from the semifinals, three semifinals last year, and then this year, sa finals sa first conference. It boils down to this game."
(We've been through a lot since last year. We learned from our three semifinals appearance last year and our finals appearance in the first conference. It boils down to this game.)
Magnolia also completed a championship sweep for the San Miguel Corporation – a first in its history – after San Miguel ruled the Philippine Cup and Barangay Ginebra reigning supreme in the Commissioner's Cup.
Determined to force a do-or-die Game 7, Alaska threatened a comeback late in the 4th by narrowing the gap to 10 points, 84-94, off Harris' freebies but that was the closest it could get as Magnolia rode on an 8-2 run.
Harris churned out 26 points, 24 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals only to witness the Aces succumb to another finals loss. Alaska has yet to taste a finals triumph since the 2013 Commissioner's Cup.
Chris Banchero had 20 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds while Jeron Teng added 14 points in the losing effort.
Magnolia 102 - Travis 32, Sangalang 16, Lee 16, Barroca 13, Jalalon 11, Dela Rosa 7, Herndon 5, Brondial 2, Melton 0, Reavis 0.
Alaska 86 - Harris 26, Banchero 20, Teng 14, Enciso 9, Cruz 6, Racal 5, Baclao 4, Thoss 2, Pascual 0, Casio 0, Galliguez 0, Magat 0.
Quarters: 32-18, 60-42, 80-63, 102-86. – Rappler.com
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.