Magnolia upsets San Miguel in PBA Philippine Cup Finals Game 1

MANILA, Philippines - Magnolia’s Ian Sangalang and Rookie Robert Herndon exploded late in the fourth quarter to draw the first blood against San Miguel Beermen in the PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven series, 105-103, on Friday, March 23, 2018 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Ian Sangalang took over Marc Pingris’ heart and soul role to help Magnolia copped game number 1
Ian Sangalang took over Marc Pingris’ heart and soul role to help Magnolia copped game number 1 | Photo Courtesy: PBA Official Facebook Page

As the 2018 All-Filipino Cup Finals unfolded, the protagonists obviously sized-up each other as both squads barely filled-up the scoreboard.

The reigning MVP, June Mar Fajardo had hard time finding his rhythm as he jocked his position under the basket against seasoned big man Rafi Reavis.

Come midway of the opener, the teams started to heat up especially at the threepoint territory. The Beermen had a slight advantage 17-16.

“The Kraken”, June Mar Fajardo abruptly erupted offensively and Magnolia had no other choice but to quadruple-team the 6’10” giant inside the paint.

Aside from Fajardo’s humongous presence underneath, SMB guards Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter chipped in valuable digits as they closed the first with an 8-point, 33-25 lead.

Although leading by some numbers, San Miguel started the 2nd quarter off as the Pambansang Manok caught up and brought the lead down to just 2. Worst, shooting guard Von Pessumal was called for flagrant foul 1 for accidentally pushing Rome Dela Rosa during a rebound battle.

The Beermen quickly recovered in scoring and even took Paul Lee’s 3rd personal foul with 6:28 remaining in the half. Lee had an off-night at least in 2 periods, as the prolific guard only made 1 out of his 7 shots.

Woes continued for Magnolia as its backup point guard, Justin Melton aggravated his foot injury as he landed awkwardly after making a fast-break layup versus the trailing Matt Ganuelas-Rosser.

San Miguel reached its double-digit advantage 56-42 at the 2:21 mark. Magnolia had no answer to Fajardo’s dominance inside the shaded lane combined with the slashing moves of Cabagnot and ringless treys of Santos.

Marcio Lassiter beat the buzzer from the outside and closed the 1st half to the tune of 63-47.

June Mar Fajardo recorded his 23rd point as they opened the 3rd quarter while another Magnolia big man, Aldrich Ramos helped his team trimmed the SMB lead little by little.

Magnolia fired back at San Miguel but the problem was: The Beermen had too much firepower in all positions plus lady luck on their side that even the impossible shots were counting in.

At the end of the third, San Miguel was still up 89-75.

Magnolia made a terrific rally and managed to cut the lead to just 8 at the beginning of the final quarter.

Pambansang Manok was also able to defend June Mar Fajardo and prevented him from touching the ball that led to an amazing comeback.

From as high as 20, Coach Chito Victolero’s boys found themselves behind by just 4 points, 89-85 with 7 minutes remaining.

Ian Sangalang stepped up big time in the absence of their injured center Marc Pingris with the aid of rookie Robert Herndon who was almost flawless at the rainbow arc.

The underperforming Paul Lee pulled a bank shot from the middle and tied the game at 97-all. Coach Leo Austria didn’t like what he saw and asked for a mandatory timeout to ice the waxing hot Pambansang Manok.

At the 2-minute warning, Magnolia was up by 1 and added 2 more to force Coach Austria to burn another timeout with 43 ticks left in the game clock.

“Don’t count San Miguel out just yet”. The Beermen just needed 9 seconds to tie the ball game at 103 courtesy of Marcio Lassiter and spared enough time for the last shot in case Magnolia drains a basket.

Fajardo fouled Sangalang under the rim and made both of his charities for the 2-point lead. San Miguel had 16 seconds to tie or win the game.

Magnolia’s defense was immaculate and forced Alex Cabagnot to take an off-balance shot and missed.

Matt Ganuelas-Rosser fouled Jio Jalalon off the inbounds. The flashy Jalalon however missed both of his foul shots that gave a small window of hope for San Miguel who was only down by 2 points, 105-103.

With 2.2 seconds left, Arwind Santos took the last shot but swatted by the lanky Rafi Reavis that signaled Magnolia’s triumphant come-from-behind win.

San Miguel will try to bounce back in Game 2 on Sunday, March 25 at 7 p.m. It will however be a tough game as Magnolia possesses the advantage and momentum.

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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