Ian Sangalang’s freebies in the final seconds completed the Magnolia Hotshots’ rally from 20 down and stunned the San Miguel Beermen, 105-103, in Game One of the 2018 Philippine Cup Finals Friday at SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The five-year league veteran coolly nailed his shots from the stripe off a June Mar Fajardo foul with 16.5 seconds left to break the 103-all deadlock — a lead they hung on to en route to the 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Sangalang finished with a career-high 29 points, along with nine rebounds and two steals.
“Yung last [play] na yun, wala, ginawa ko na lang best ko. Yun, na-foul [si June Mar],” reflected the six-foot-seven Sangalang. “Yung team namin ‘di mag-gi-give up yan. Kahit gaano kalaki lamang, babalik at babalik kami diyan.”
Sweet-shooting big man Aldrech Ramos supplied 15 points by going 6-of-11 from the field. Mark Barroca provided 14 points, six rebounds, and five assists, while Rome Dela Rosa chipped in 11 markers spiked by two triples.
“It’s all credit to the players kasi down 20, ‘di sila nag-give up eh. That’s the character na nabuo ko sa insistence sa past experiences namin,” said head coach Chito Victolero, who even quipped, “Muntik ako himatayin sa laro.”
It certainly looked like the Hotshots were about to bow to the Beermen in Game One after they went down by 20, 52-72, with over eight minutes to go in the third canto. But they had found ways to demolish the high wall step by step.
Their efforts eventually paid off especially in the final frame, opening the said quarter with a 13-0 blitzkrieg — punctuated by rookie Robbie Herndon’s three-pointer — to knock within a point, 88-89, with 7:20 to go.
The Beermen, behind Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot, and Marcio Lassiter, were able to douse water on Magnolia’s furious rally. Fajardo’s point-blank shot with 2:30 remaining lifted San Miguel to a three-point cushion, 100-97.
But that proved to be San Miguel’s final taste of the upper hand, as the Hotshots scored six straight points — ended by Sangalang’s short baseline jumper — to post a 103-100 lead with just 43.2 seconds on the clock.
Lassiter was able to tie the bout with less than 34 ticks to go after a triple off a screen, but then Sangalang’s heroics took place afterwards, as he was able to bait Fajardo to a foul off a series of moves from the post.
A glimmer of hope shone for the Beermen with three seconds left to play after Jio Jalalon missed both of his foul shots. They had a chance to send the game into overtime, but Rafi Reavis blocked Arwind Santos’ perimeter shot for the win.
“Hopefully ma-sustain namin ‘tong energy na ‘to with the one-day prep for Sunday’s game. Sana yung hinabol naming malaki, ‘di napagod players namin doon,” added Victolero, who aced his first-ever test in a title match.
Fajardo led the defending champs with 31 points and 18 rebounds, but he committed 11 turnovers. Cabagnot had 27 points on top of nine boards and nine assists, while Lassiter supplied 21 markers on 50 percent shooting.
Santos chipped in 19 points, six rebounds, and two blocks, while all-around point guard Chris Ross was a non-factor in Game One as he only had one point, three boards, two steals, and an assist in 19 minutes.
According to the league’s chief statistician Fidel Mangonon, the 20-point deficit is the biggest lead overhauled in a PBA Finals game en route to a win, since Alaska came back from 21 in the third period to beat San Miguel, 78-70, to take a 3-0 lead in the 2015 Philippine Cup Finals.
The Hotshots have a chance to take a 2-0 edge in the title series in Game Two on Sunday, March 25, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Magnolia 105 – Sangalang 29, Ramos 15, Barroca 14, dela Rosa 11, Herndon 8, Jalalon 7, Reavis 6, Pascual 5, Lee 4, Melton 3, Simon 3, Brondial 0
San Miguel 103 – Fajardo 31, Cabagnot 27, Lassiter 21, Santos 19, Ganuelas-Rosser 4, Ross 1, Heruela 0, de Ocampo 0, Pessumal 0, Espinas 0
Quarterscores: 25-33, 47-63, 75-89, 105-103