|Paul Lee came up big in crunch time. PBA Media Group|
By Dugout Philippines
QUEZON CITY--It was one of the classic final matches ever seen in the league.
But the biggest plays belonged to Paul Lee, his heroics at endgame lifting Magnolia Pambansang Manok to a 79-78 nail-biter and into the threshold of the PBA Governors Cup championship.
In his final act, Lee was in the right place at the right time to grab the loose ball, leading to his game-winning shot in the last 1.3 seconds as the Hotshots beat out the Alaska Milk Aces in an epic match to grab the pivotal 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven title playoff.
The Aces could have salvaged the game, but Mike Harris flubbed a fade-away shot off Romeo Travis at the buzzer to the disappointment of their crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Action swings back to the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo on Wednesday where the Hotshots take their first of two cracks at wrapping up the series.
"This is what the finals is all about. Eto yon, ganitong klaseng laban. At malamang ganito din ang Game Six," said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero.
"Game Seven? We'll certainly try to do it," said Alaska Milk coach Alex Compton.
Game Five was a duel of runs that went down to an exciting helter-skelter finish won by the Hotshots on a series of clutch plays by Lee.
"I won't give up on any play. Yun naman ang tinuro sa amin huwag kang hihinto sa laro hanggang walang tawag at hanggang walang dead ball. It led to good plays for us," said Lee.
Foiling a three-against-one attack by the Aces, Lee then fed Ian Sangalang with a perfect dish, leading to a three-point play that made it 77-76 with time down to 18.7 seconds.
Alaska regained the upper hand in the next play on two free throws by Harris off Rafi Reavis, but Lee came through with another great hustle act to propel the Hotshots to within a game of winning the series.
"Struggling ako sa series offensively. Pero yung mga coaches kept on saying yung next shot papasok yan," said Lee on his winning basket.
Lee was 4-of-12 from the field in this game where he finished with a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Sangalang top scored with 20 and two other Magnolia locals, Jio Jalalon and Mark Barroca, also finished in double figures, making up for Travis' mere 10-point output.
"We're tired physically and mentally, and it's really all about heart. Credit to my players for staying together," said Victolero.
"These two teams can't play any harder. It's an incredible game, an instant classic," said Compton, sorry though they lost the game as they we're beaten for the loose balls at endgame.
The Magnolia locals terribly outperformed and outscored their Alaska counterparts, 39-24, as the Hotshots took the half at 53-40.
Sangalang scattered 13 points and Barroca put in 10 as they showed the way for their team in the first half where they led by as many as 17 at 51-34.
After fighting the Hotshots through five deadlocks and six lead changes in the opening quarter, the Aces faded away as they were limited to 12 points in the second period.
But the Aces had their own big run in the third to get into the fight and set the stage for the thrilling finish.
Magnolia 79 - Sangalang 20, Barroca 14, Jalalon 13, Lee 11, Travis 10, Herndon 6, Dela Rosa 4, Reavis 1, Melton 0, Brondial 0.
Alaska 78 - Harris 28, Racal 13, Enciso 13, Pascual 6, Exciminiano 5, Cruz 4, Banchero 3, Teng 2, Manuel 2, Casio 2, Baclao 0.
Quarters: 29-28, 53-40, 65-62, 79-78
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