Sweet taste of redemption.
After dwelling behind the shadows of more successful sister teams San Miguel and Ginebra in the first two conferences, the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok completed the SMC grand slam for 2018.
Coach Chito Victolero’s troops took quite a leap from their 6-5 win-loss slate in the Commissioner’s Cup, as they secured a twice-to-beat advantage (8-3 record) heading into the Governors’ Cup Quarterfinals tiff against Blackwater.
The Hotshots made quick work of the Elite and figured in a gritty series against the defending Govs’ Cup champs Ginebra in the semis. They passed the test with flying colors by eliminating the crowd darlings in four games, and was deemed as favorites against the dangerous Alaska Aces in Finals.
After going up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, the Hotshots made sure to go for the jugular and avoid a winner-take-all Game 7 by shutting the door on the Aces’ title aspirations.
FOX Sports Philippines bares the numbers behind Magnolia’s triumphant conference.
With a bevy of speedy guards in their rotation, Magnolia thrived on putting immense pressure in the passing lanes by leading the league in total steals per contest (11.44). Their pesky activity translated into 20.23 points off turnovers (1st) and 7.05 fast break points (6th).
They also made 70 percent of their trips to the foul line (5th) and increased their 49.05 rebounds average in the eliminations to 54.90 come playoff time (2nd).
After suiting up for Alaska back in 2015, Romeo Travis found the perfect fit with Magnolia. The “Southpaw Outlaw” normed 22.73 markers, 15.09 boards, and 4.36 assists in the eliminations, and exploded for a career-best 50 points against Ginebra in the semis.
Ian Sangalang also had remarkable season for the Hotshots, but it was the menacing trio of Finals MVP Marc Barroca, BPC Paul Lee, and Jio Jalaron that certainly elevated Magnolia to championship status.
The three-headed guard rotation blitzed through the competition in the eliminations and even held their own on defence against bigger guards in the postseason.
Looking forward, what can we expect from Magnolia?
Barroca (32 years old) and Lee (29) are still in the primes of their careers, while Jalalon has certainly learned the ropes and is poised for a bigger role in the coming years.
They also took former San Sebastian star Michael Calisaan with the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft, which adds youth to their solid frontline.
It will also be interesting to see how the team will utilize last year’s surprise pick Robbie Herndon in the coming years, as he showed glimpses of potential in the year’s playoffs, despite limited minutes.
But the biggest thing to watch out for Magnolia fans would be the return of Marc Pingris some time next year. The 37-year-old nine-time PBA Champion underwent surgery last March to repair his torn ACL.