The Magnolia Hotshots have pulled off something that was probably just wishful thinking when the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup started December last year.
And after losing their leader Marc Pingris in Game 1 of the best-of-seven semifinal series with the NLEX Road Warriors, the uphill climb became doubly harder.
But despite the odds seemingly stacked against them, the Hotshots fought through it all and emerged victorious in 6 hard-fought games to advance to the championship round for the first time since they bagged the third jewel of the Grand Slam in 2014.
Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon conspired in the closing minutes of the game to thwart any comeback attempts by the Road Warriors.
Ian Sangalang top-scored for Magnolia with 15 points but converted only 6 of 12 shots from the field. The 26-year old native of Lubao, Pampanga added 11 rebounds and a team-high 6 turnovers.
Barroca also finished with a double double of 14 points and 10 rebounds including the all-important steal and 3-point play to give his team a five-point lead with time down to 1:32.
Jalalon was the 3rd Magnolia player to finish with a double double as he ended up with 11 points and 13 assists. The ‘Cyclone’ added 5 rebounds and 2 steals and was adjudged as the best player of the game.
Unheralded big man Mike Miranda had the biggest game of his career as he led NLEX with 20 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 2 steals.
Keifer Ravena, who scored 20 points in Game 4 and 21 in Game 5, was held to only 9 points on a measly 3-of-17 shooting.
With the win, the Hotshots earned the right to face defending champion San Miguel in best-of-seven Finals series which begins on Friday, March 23 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
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.
Quarterscores: 20-29, 49-46, 71-68, 96-89.