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Magnolia victory caps SMC ‘Grand Slam’

By Al S. Mendoza

AS usual, several heroes emerged from Magnolia’s victory in the just-ended Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup.

Those who stood out were Romeo Travis, Paul Lee and Mark Barroca.

Of course, the natural biggest hero of them all was coach Chito Victolero.

Oh, yes, include Gio Jalalon.  His point-guard wizardry did wonders for Magnolia all throughout.

And Travis?

From the start, I have always considered Travis to be the Best Import of the Conference.

Not Mike Harris of Alaska.

Travis always shone in almost every game of the series.

Even when his hamstring injury was genuinely annoying him, he never gave up.

He played through pain, unmindful of possible further injuries emanating from his hamstring.

In the crucial Game 6 alone, with Magnolia needing to win it to close the best-of-seven series at 4-2, Travis totally outperformed Harris.

Travis fired 32 points as against Harris’ 26, many of those markers coming from quality baskets.

It was as if Travis was telling the crowd at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo: “Hey, I’m the rightful most valuable import of the Conference.”

Rightfully, he was. 

And then came Paul Lee.

Like Travis, Lee was also hurting, still not 100 percent.

But he trudged on, ignoring pain from leg injuries to help his teammates score all-important victories leading to a Conference triumph.

Lee led all Hotshots in the Game 5 Magnolia triumph.

When everything seemed lost, Lee came to his team’s rescue.

He fired the buzzer-beating corner jumper for the marginal basket that gave Magnolia the crucial win, moving the Hotshots to within a game of clinching the crown.

And then in Game 6, Mark Barroca outdid himself, firing 13 points, most of which were super-precious as they came almost each time Alaska threatened.

After Magnolia’s victory, Barroca was voted best player of the Finals.

In victory, Victolero was profuse with gratitude as he thanked his bosses, Ramon S. Ang (RSA) and Danding Cojuangco, San Miguel Corp.’s pillars.

Also deserving of Victolero’s praise was Al Francis Chua, San Miguel’s sports athletic director.

It is people like Victolero who would really succeed in his dreams. 

His being cognizant of the help people had showered upon him is one trait that many among us have, sadly, forgotten.

Surely, Victolero knows the saying, “Gratitude is the highest virtue on Earth.”      

And then this:  By piloting Magnolia to victory, Victolero has completed a Grand Slam of sorts for San Miguel Corp.

San Miguel Beer was Philippine Cup champion, Ginebra San Miguel the Commissioner’s Cup winner and Magnolia the Governors’ Cup title holder.

No company has ever achieved such a feat.

As Al Francis Chua said it during the Awards ceremonies, by way of addressing it to RSA: “Mission accomplished, Sir.”

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

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