By Jonas Terrado
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Alaska vs Magnolia
Game 1 – Magnolia 100, Alaska 84
Game 2 – Magnolia 77, Alaska 71
Game 3 – Alaska 100, Magnolia 71
Game 4 – Alaska 90, Magnolia 76
(Series tied 2-2)
The Alaska Aces could use Mark Barroca’s escape from suspension as a rallying point when they seek an all-important 3-2 lead over the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok in Game 5 of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Alaska is perhaps determined to claim a third straight win in the 7 p.m. affair after the league slapped Barroca with a R50,000 fine on Thursday for hitting Chris Banchero with a low blow late in the Aces’ 90-76 victory that turned the championship showdown into a best-of-three.
Aces coach Alex Compton was certainly not pleased with the incident after the game, even describing Magnolia’s level of physicality as “dirty basketball.”
Compton’s comments cost him an undisclosed fine from PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, though sources reveal that the punishment came after he and Magnolia counterpart Chito Victolero were given stern warnings for expressing detrimental comments to the media.
Tensions could reach beyond the boiling point going into the match as the two teams look to move a win shy of capturing the final championship at stake in the league’s 43rd season.
Adjustments are expected from both teams, so are the crew of referees who are under scrutiny by both teams for what they perceived as inconsistent officiating.
The possibly of having tighter calls could set the tempo for the pivotal match as Alaska and Magnolia are expected to resume their war of attrition marred by either poor shooting or better defense.
And Alaska seems to have Magnolia all figured out after bouncing back from a 0-2 deficit to win the next two games by an average margin of 21.5 points.
In Game 4, Mike Harris proved his worth as the conference’s Best Import by posting 34 points and 20 rebounds even as the Aces forced the Hotshots to make only 32 percent of their shots.
“I think we’re now playing the best defense we’ve played all conference,” said Compton, who is more than ever hungry to finally win his first PBA title in his fifth try.
Victolero, meanwhile, hopes to map out a gambit to solve Alaska’s improved play.
But for Magnolia to regain hold on the series, it will need better performances from its local crew after import Romeo Travis was left to carry much of the scoring load in Game 4.
Best Player of the Conference winner Paul Lee, Barroca and Jio Jalalon have struggled for most of the series while Ian Sangalang has
been a non-factor after four matches.
PHOENIX GETS MALLARI, MARCELO
Meantime, Phoenix Fuel sent its No. 4 overall pick for Sunday’s PBA Rookie Draft to NLEX for veteran players Alex Mallari and Dave Marcelo. (With a report from Waylon Galvez)