Magnolia has its eyes set on the first finals berth as it looks to dethrone defending champion Barangay Ginebra in their best-of-five semifinals series in the 2018 Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup.
Comfortably ahead 2-0 in the showdown, the Hotshots can close out the Gin Kings as they go for a sweep in Game 3 at 7 p.m. today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Should Magnolia be successful, it will reach its second finals this season after finishing as a runner-up in the Philippine Cup.
However, the Hotshots would first need to finish the job against the top-seeded Gin Kings, who now find themselves fighting for their lives all of a sudden.
“We know Ginebra will fight back, that’s for sure,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero. “It’s good to be in this position and we look to make the finals as soon as we can. We all know Ginebra is a dangerous team even when it is down.”
Magnolia surprisingly took the first two games as it delivered on both ends constantly.
The Hotshots put themselves in this position after a 101-97 victory in Game 2 last Monday night.
Now in a position to dig deep to be able to defend their crown, the Gin Kings are now facing a must-win situation.
Ginebra actually lost its coach, Tim Cone, with over nine minutes remaining in Game 2 after he got ejected for two technical fouls.
To survive, the Gin Kings are now looking to regroup and show why they are the two-time defending champions.
Meanwhile, Meralco third-year guard Baser Amer’s leadership and clutch shooting didn’t go unnoticed after being named the Cignal-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week for the period of Nov. 5-11 in the 2018 Governors’ Cup.
After serving as an understudy of former PBA Most Valuable Player Jimmy Alapag in 2016, Amer has spread his wings this season, sparking Meralco to the semifinals after a woeful start in the season-ending conference.
The 26-year-old former San Beda Red Lion averaged 18 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.6 steals in the Bolts’ last three games on the way to capturing the weekly citation.
Given up for dead after Meralco’s 1-6 record, Amer played a key role in his team resurgence.
Meralco won five straight games to close the elims en route to making the playoffs as the seventh seed.
From there, Amer showed his readiness for battle in the playoffs, firing 14 points, grabbing four rebounds, issuing six assists and adding two steals as the Bolts shocked the no. 2 seed Phoenix, 90-74 to force the winner-take-all match in their quarterfinal duel.
The six-foot Amer took his game a notch higher in the knockout match, banging in 26 points, including back-to-back triples in the extra period that broke the backs of the Fuel Masters en route to a 108-103 win to advance to the semifinals.
Last Sunday, Meralco played its third game in five days, but that hardly mattered as Amer sustained his form, tallying 14 points, four boards, three assists and a steal to lead Meralco past Alaska, 97-92 and draw first blood in their best-of-five semifinal showdown.
Meralco has won its last seven games, a franchise record. But for Amer, the job isn’t done yet especially since the Bolts need two more wins to make a return trip to the Governors’ Cup Finals―its third straight if ever as they try to win the title this time.
Amer beat teammate Chris Newsome, Magnolia’s Paul Lee, Ginebra forward Japeth Aguilar and Alaska’s Vic Manuel for the weekly citation.