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Magnolia returns to PBA Finals, ousts NLEX in 6 games

11:29 PM March 20, 2018

After four long years, Magnolia is back in the Finals.

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The Hotshots imposed their will on the undermanned NLEX to finish off their 2018 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series with a 96-89 Game 6 victory Tuesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Magnolia earned a return to the championship for the first time since its Grand Slam-clinching triumph in the 2014 Governors’ Cup.

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Ian Sangalang poured 15 points and 11 rebounds in the balanced attack for the Hotshots, while Mark Barroca also added 14 markers, 10 boards, and five assists.

Jio Jalalon also came up big with his 11 points, 13 assists, and five rebounds, while Aldrech Ramos and Kyle Pascual both logged 10 apiece.

“It was very hard for us to get this Game 6 and this series, but NLEX really readied us for the Finals,” said coach Chito Victolero, who finally gets a chance to coach in the big dance for the storied franchise after only settling in the semifinals in all three conferences last year.

True to Victolero’s words, it was Magnolia’s defense which did the trick late.

Mark Barroca intercepted Kiefer Ravena’s pass and finished the three-point play to put his side up, 94-89, with 1:32 remaining, before Jalalon stole the ball off of Larry Fonacier and went all the way to give the Hotshots a 96-89 advantage with 1:25 left.

“Since last season, I’m always trying to convince my players that our defense will win games and we’ll go to the Finals. And they committed. Now, that will be our ace going into the Finals,” said the mentor.

The finals series between defending three-time titlist San Miguel and Magnolia starts on Friday.

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Michael Miranda carried NLEX with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Fonacier got 17 markers and seven boards.

Kiefer Ravena was limited to nine points on a paltry 3-of-17 shooting, while also collecting five rebounds and five assists.

The Road Warriors sorely missed the services of Kevin Alas, who tore his right ACL back in Game 5, and JR Quiñahan, who was ejected after whacking Jalalon in the face with less than eight minutes remaining in the second quarter.

The Scores:

MAGNOLIA 96 — Sangalang 15, Barroca 14, Jalalon 11, Pascual 10, Ramos 10, Dela Rosa 9, Lee 9, Reavis 6, Simon 6, Herndon 4, Brondial 2.

NLEX 89 — Miranda 20, Fonacier 17, Baguio 10, Ravena 9, Mallari 8, Taulava 7, Soyud 6, Tiongson 5, Quiñahan 4, Ighalo 3.

Quarters: 20-29, 49-46, 71-68, 96-89.

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