AFTER being off for a fortnight to give way to the World Cup campaign of the national team, the best-of-seven Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ finals series between the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok and Alaska Aces rolls off today at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Set for 7 p.m., Game One of the finals will see the last two teams standing in the season-ending PBA tournament go for an early series lead and set the pace in the proceedings.
Magnolia has been steady all tournament long, finishing joint second with an 8-3 record at the end of the elimination round before eliminating Blackwater Elite in the quarterfinals and dethroning erstwhile defending champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings in their best-of-five semifinals, 3-1.
Best Import candidate Romeo Travis is leading the Hotshots with averages of 22.7 points, 15.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
Guard Paul Lee has been adding 17.3 points and 3.2 assists while backcourt mate Mark Barroca has been good for 13.1 markers and 3.5 dimes.
Ian Sangalang is the other Magnolia player scoring in double digits with 10.9 points a game to go along with 5.1 boards with do-it-all guard Jio Jalalon providing 9.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists.
As a team, Magnolia is averaging 102 points a game in the Governors’ Cup while allowing opponents just 94 points in 16 games to date.
“I think the series will be an exciting one. It’s going to be a battle of execution between us and Alaska,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero as he looked ahead of their series with the Aces.
Alaska, for its part, has been equally steady, joint second with Magnolia at the end of the elimination round at 8-3 and then got the better of long tormentors and powerhouse San Miguel Beermen in the quarterfinals.
It then survived a tough challenge from the Meralco Bolts in the semifinals, 3-1.
Import Mike Harris is leading a balanced Aces attack with 29.8 points, 21.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Chris Banchero is averaging a near double-double of 15.8 points and 8.7 assists while Vic Manuel is chipping in 15.9 points.
Simon Enciso is also in double digits for Alaska with 11.2 markers per game.
The Aces are posting similar numbers as those of the Hotshots, averaging 102 points in the tournament while allowing 96 points to opponents.
“Magnolia is a tough team to play and we have to play better against them in the finals,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton in the lead-up to the finals.
In their lone encounter in the elimination round, Magnolia topped Alaska, 83-73, with Messrs. Travis and Jalalon leading the charge.
The about-to-start finals series between Magnolia and Alaska marks the first time that the teams are meeting in the championship since the 2009-10 Philippine Cup finals where Magnolia, then playing under Purefoods, swept Alaska, 4-0. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo