Magnolia completed its remarkable comeback from 17 points down in the 3rd quarter to formally clinch the remaining Finals ticket by virtue of a 63-60 Game 7 win over Rain or Shine, Sunday night at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.
The Hotshots trailed for majority of the contest but found their bearing halfway in the 3rd canto and then engaged the Elasto Painters in a nip-and-tuck affair in the final frame which eventually went into overtime.
Veteran center and Magnolia team captain Rafi Reavis took over in the extra period with timely rebounds and points to deliver the series-clinching win for his team. The 41-year old, 19-year veteran finished with a game-high 20 rebounds, 8 points and 3 rejections.
“We were down by 17 and hindi ko alam paano kami nakabalik. I would like to thank my players. I’m so proud of them. I love the grit, I love the resiliency, I love the effort, the energy. They don’t give up,” said a jubilant Magnolia coach Chito Victolero after the game.
It was a fitting climax for the storied franchise who started the conference with 3 straight losses. They regrouped at the latter end of the elimination round and finished with a 6-5 record, good for the 6th seed going into the playoffs.
Things got off on the wrong foot once more as they bowed to Manila Clasico rival Brgy. Ginebra in the opening game of a best-of-three affair. They won the next two, however, to arrange a meeting with the Elasto Painters in the semifinal round.
Tragedy struck anew as they lost the first two games of the series before winning the next three. They lost to a determined Rain or Shine squad in Game 6 before formalizing their entry into the championship round with the gut-wrenching victory in Game 7.
Magnolia now has the unenviable task of trying to dethrone league powerhouse and perennial Philippine Cup champion San Miguel in a best-of-seven series which kicks off on Wednesday, May 1 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ian Sangalang paced the Hotshots with 11 points to go along with 15 boards and 3 blocks. Paul Lee contributed a quiet 11 markers while Aldrech Ramos added 9.
Magnolia 63 – Sangalang 11, Lee 11, Ramos 9, Reavis 8, Barroca 7, Dela Rosa 6, Brondial 5, Jalalon 3, Melton 3, Herndon 0.
Rain or Shine 60 – Yap 14, Norwood 11, Ponferada 9, Belga 7, Ahanmisi 7, Nambatac 5, Mocon 3, Borboran 2, Rosales 2, Torres 0, Daquioag 0.
Quarterscores: 14-7, 21-27, 37-44, 55-55, 63-60.