MANILA, Philippines – Count on Paul Lee to come through the clutch.
The Best Import of the Conference hit a game-winner with 1.3 seconds left as Magnolia moved on the cusp of bagging the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup title with a 79-78 win over Alaska in Game 5 on Friday, December 14.
With the Hotshots trailing 77-78 late, the capacity crowd at the Araneta Coliseum broke loose after Lee drained an open baseline jumper off a Romeo Travis miss to give his side the upper hand.
Lee shot 3-of-11 from the field prior to his game-winner but that didn't matter as he collared the offensive board and stopped from within 15 feet to sink the go-ahead jumper.
Mike Harris tried to win it for Alaska only to witness his baseline jump shot fall way short after he was smothered by Travis' tenacious defense.
The Hotshots snapped the Aces' two-game winning streak to gain a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven affair and inch closer to their first championship since 2014.
Lee finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 2 assists while Ian Sangalang paced Magnolia with 20 points on a healthy 8-of-13 shooting to go with 6 rebounds and 2 assists.
Relatively quiet for the first 4 games, Sangalang finally found his groove in the all-important Game 5 as he also delivered in crunchtime by converting an and-one that gave the Hotshots a 77-76 lead with 18 seconds left.
However, Harris immediately answered to put the Aces back on the driver's seat with two foul shots, 78-77.
Travis bucked off a rough shooting night that saw him miss 16 of his 19 field goal attempts as he finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 6 assists.
Mark Barroca added 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists and Jio Jalalon had 13 points and 5 boards in the win.
Magnolia was primed for a blowout triumph as it led by as much as 17 points, 51-34, and by 13 at halftime, 53-40, before Alaska whittled down its deficit to just 3 points heading into the final frame, 65-62.
The Aces outscored the Hotshots 22-12 and momentarily took a 58-55 advantage after an 18-2 run to start the 3rd.
Harris paced Alaska with 28 points, 20 rebounds and 5 assists while Kevin Racal and Simon Enciso chalked up 13 markers apiece in the losing effort.
Game 6 is slated on Wednesday, December 19, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Magnolia 79 – Sangalang 20, Barroca 14, Jalalon 13, Lee 11, Travis 10, Herndon 6, Dela Rosa 4, Reavis 1, Melton 0, Brondial 0, Simon 0.
Alaska 78 – Harris 28, Enciso 13, Racal 13, Pascual 6, Exciminiano 5, Cruz 4, Banchero 3, Casio 2, Teng 2, Manuel 2, Baclao 0, Galliguez 0.
Quarters: 29-28, 53-40, 65-62, 79-78.