Ian Sangalang held his hand over his face as he heaved a huge sigh of relief.
Finally, Magnolia is back in the PBA finals after a two-year wait.
Magnolia became the first team to reach the Philippine Cup finals after sending Meralco packing out of the Pampanga bubble following a 93-85 win in Game 6 on Friday, October 15.
“It feels really good to be back in the finals. We go through a lot here,” Sangalang said in Filipino.
“We’re away from our families and we’re not able to be with them when we lose. It hurts that we cannot talk to them personally.”
Up 3-1 in the best-of-seven affair, Magnolia failed to get the job done in Game 5 after squandering a fourth-quarter lead as Meralco stayed alive with a narrow 102-98 victory.
But Sangalang had no plans of letting the series go the distance.
Sangalang impressed from across the board in Game 6, chalking up game-highs of 19 points and 14 rebounds to go with 6 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 steals in arguably his finest performance in the playoffs.
He said Magnolia has already learned from its mistakes after getting the boot early in the all-Filipino playoffs last season – its third straight quarterfinals exit after its 2019 Philippine Cup finals appearance.
“We know how to win now because of what we experienced last conference,” Sangalang said. “We will do our best to win the title.”
Although undoubtedly the best player in Game 6, Sangalang said his unheralded teammates like Rome dela Rosa and Justin Melton were the reason for the victory.
Dela Rosa delivered a conference-high 16 points to go with 5 rebounds, while Melton had 6 points and 2 rebounds in a surprise starting role.
“Justin and Rome played stifling defense. They should be here instead of me,” Sangalang said, referring to the post-game press conference.
“I salute them. They won this game for us.”
As Magnolia waits for its finals foe between San Miguel and TNT, Sangalang wants him and his teammates to maintain a cool mentality.
“It just gets harder once you pressure yourself. For me, any team will be a tough opponent because they are both in the semis, so that means they are also contenders.” – Rappler.com