Mark Barroca scored one big basket after another in the final minutes to seal the Magnolia Hotshots' 100-84 win against the Alaska Aces in Game 1 of the PBA Governors' Cup Finals on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Magnolia started out hot but sputtered a few times along the way before Barroca brought it home with his timely shooting.
After Alaska trimmed a 21-point deficit to eight, Barroca took matters into his own hands and scored five quick points capped by a corner 3-pointer to push Magnolia's lead to 89-76.
His offensive outburst was followed by a defensive stop, as he stripped the ball from Alaska import Mike Harris and dished it to a streaking Paul Lee for an easy layup. Barroca then banked in a shot to put the game out of reach, 93-76.
Magnolia holds a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Barroca finished with 16 points and six steals while import Romeo Travis erupted with 29 points and 13 rebounds.
Ian Sangalang contributed 10 points before fouling out with 4:44 remaining. Jio Jalalon had seven points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, and four steals.
"We're happy to win this game but it's only the start. After tonight we need to prepare hard again tomorrow," Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero said.
Coming off a two-week layoff to give way for the Philippine team's FIBA World Cup qualifiers campaign, the Hotshots came out hot and raced off to 15-0 blitz to seize control.
Alaska, down 82-61 with 10:01 remaining in the final quarter, rallied to within eight points on a furious 15-2 rally.
Following a timeout Barroca found a way to score on a scoop shot as the shot clock wound down to ignite the run that held off the Aces.
Victolero wasn't surprised Barroca stepped up when it mattered most.
"He's a veteran. He knows how to play in the championship series. He did a good job on both ends," Victolero said.
Meanwhile, the Aces struggled to keep step with the Hotshots. It did not help that Vic Manuel, battling flu symptoms in the days leading up to the game, was far from top form. He finished with only six points for the Aces, who looked rusty after being held scoreless in the first six minutes of action. "I can play. But I just had a tough start," said Manuel in Filipino.
Manuel said Magnolia's energy at the outset was off the charts.
"They dictated the tempo from the start. They got off to a hot start. I think that was the turning point," he said.
"You can see their press, it was there all game long. They were more willing to win the game. They caught us off guard."
Alaska head coach Alex Compton said his team got outworked.
"I didn't plan on saying it, I just said it on the locker room, I felt like we gave an 85 percent effort and Magnolia gave a 100 percent effort," he said. "We just can't figure out how our energy can be that way."
Compton and Alaska have until Friday to figure things out.
"We're going all out on Friday. We can't drop to a 0-2 hole," Manuel said. "We can't start flat again next game. Our energy must be there from start to finish."
Magnolia 100 - Travis 29, Barroca 16, Lee 14, Sangalang 10, Herndon 9, Melton 7, Reavis 4, Simon 4, Brondial 0, Dela Rosa 0, Pascual 0, Mendoza 0.
Alaska 84 - Harris 20, Banchero 12, Teng 10, Enciso 9, Casio 7, Racal 6, Manuel 6, Pascual 5, Thoss 3, Galliguez 3, Cruz 3, Baclao 0, Exciminiano 0, Andrada 0.
Quarterscores: 24-14, 52-40, 77-58, 100-84.
-- During halftime, the PBA paid homage to former commissioner Rey Marquez. The fourth PBA chief passed away last November 11 at the age of 86.
-- It was a battle between the two imports in the first half. The two were the only players who finished in double figures heading into the break, with Travis leading Magnolia with 18 points and Mike Harris firing 17.
Game 2 is on December 7 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.