PBA Finals a treat for fans

PBA Finals a treat for fans

Marcial said the opposing coaches know each other well and the familiarity will be an intriguing twist to the Finals. Alaska coach Alex Compton and Magnolia coach Chito Victolero were teammates with the Manila Metrostars in the defunct MBA in 1998.File

MANILA, Philippines — PBA commissioner Willie Marcial yesterday called the coming Governors Cup Finals a treat for the fans as he predicted a down-to-the-wire finish in every game of the best-of-seven series between Magnolia and Alaska, two of the hungriest teams in the league.


“Parehas ang laban,” said Marcial. “Neither team is favored. Start with the imports. They’re both equally talented. (Alaska’s) Mike Harris and (Magnolia’s) Romeo Travis can play multiple positions. They can score, rebound, defend and do everything else. What’s interesting is if the imports cancel each other out, the door will be open for the locals to determine who wins.”


Marcial said the health factor will be critical. “The big question is whether Travis can last,” he said. “He was hurt during the semifinals but gave it his all in Game 4 (against Barangay Ginebra) to make sure there wouldn’t be a Game 5. In the Finals, I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes to a Game 7. I don’t think there’s anyone who can confidently predict how this will end. That’s how evenly matched it is.”


Travis, 33, outdid himself by firing 50 points, including 21 in the fourth period, as Magnolia beat Ginebra, 112-108, in Game 4 to wrap up their best-of-five semifinal series last Nov. 16. If the series went to a Game 5, Travis would’ve likely sat out to rest his hamstrings and Ben Mbala activated as an interim replacement. Harris, 35, was a monster in Alaska’s 3-1 win over Meralco in the semifinals. After the Aces lost Game 1, they swept the next three encounters with Harris averaging 34.5 points and 18.6 rebounds in the series.


Asked to single out each team’s X-factor, Marcial pointed to Alaska’s Vic Manuel and Magnolia’s Ian Sangalang. “Assuming the imports and guards neutralize each other, then it’s up to the frontcourt to make the difference,” he said. “Ian and Vic are playing heads-up in the playoffs. They could be the X-factors for their teams.” Sangalang is averaging 14.4 points in the playoffs where he has scored in double figures in four of five games while Manuel is hitting at a 10.6 clip coming off the bench. For the conference, Manuel is norming 14.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 23.1 minutes in 16 games with no start. Sangalang, on the other hand, is averaging 12 points, 5.7 rebounds and 24 minutes with six starts in 16 contests. He has started in Magnolia’s last four contests.


Marcial said the opposing coaches know each other well and the familiarity will be an intriguing twist to the Finals. Alaska coach Alex Compton and Magnolia coach Chito Victolero were teammates with the Manila Metrostars in the defunct MBA in 1998. “One of them will be a first-time PBA champion coach,” he said. “They’re both hungry and capable. Watching them coach, adjust and readjust will be an experience.”


In the single-round eliminations, Magnolia beat Alaska, 83-73, at the Big Dome last Oct. 14. Travis had 19 points, 17 rebounds and four assists as the Hotshots had six more rebounds, five more field goal attempts, nine more converted free throws and three less turnovers. Jio Jalalon shot 18 points, Paul Lee 14 and Mark Barroca 12. For Alaska, Harris collected 24 points, 25 rebounds and two assists. The only other Aces in twin digits were Chris Banchero with 13 and Manuel with 12.


Game 1 of the Finals is set at the MOA Arena on Wednesday. Game 2 will be on Friday, Dec. 7, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Game 3 on Sunday, Dec. 9 at the Ynares Center Antipolo and Game 4 on Wednesday, Dec. 12 at the Big Dome. The PBA will announce the schedules for Games 5, 6 and 7 as they become necessary.