On the day Alaska’s Mike Harris was crowned the PBA Governors’ Cup Best Import and Magnolia’s Paul Lee the Best Player of the Conference, the Aces trounced the Hotshots, 90-76 on Wednesday’s Game 4 of the best-of-seven title series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Harris showed why he deserves the award bestowed on him earlier in the evening by doing almost everything for the Aces as he and his teammates tied the best-of-seven title series with the Hothots after trailing 0-2 in the opening two games.
Harris, one of the former NBA stalwarts seeing action in this, the pro league’s 43rd season-ending tournament, scored 34 points and hauled down 22 rebounds as he remained the story of the Wilfred Uytengsu-owned franchise’s impressive comeback.
The ever-smiling Harris had 13 of his 34 points in the fourth period to keep Magnolia at bay after the Hotshots cut down a 17-point gap to nine. He also had three assists.
But while the 35-year-old has, indeed, accounted big for Alaska all conference long, he unselfishly acknowledged his teammates contributions to the cause in the Finals specifically singling out young forwards Jake Pascual and Carl Bryan Cruz.
Cruz and Pascual came off the bench helping the Alaska’s bench outscore Magnolia’s, 22-14. The Aces also had more rebounds, 60-48, while showing defensive intensity.
“A lot of the young guys in the four or five position, they always stay after and working with me in different parts of their skills,” Harris told media men after he victory.
“Carl Bryan (Cruz) has been valuable and you put (Jake) Pascual in the starting lineup and expect him to he play ferocious defense. I got to play against Pascual in practice every day so I know how great a defender that he is.”
“We can’t win this with just the starters and our bench has really stepped up. I’m beyond impressed with those guys,” he said.
Harris’ counterpart Romeo Travis injury above his nose in the third didn’t contribute any and although he returned and hit a three-pointer to pull Magnolia to 82-73, it was proved too late as Chris Banchero hit a three- 3-pointer to put the game away for good, 85-73, with 1:13 left remained.
Travis finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds, while Lee, named BPC for the first time, had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Hotshots.
Banchero struggled for 17 points as Mark Barroca hounded him the entire game, even receiving a shot at his groin courtesy of Magnolia’s point guard.
With 2:40 left and Harris at the foul line, Barroca looked like he hit Banchero in the groin area, sending the latter sprawled on the floor.
Alaska coach Alex Compton minced no words over Barroca’s sneaky hit on Banchero, saying he’s curious to know if the incident will merit a suspension.
With the play in the series becoming more physical, Harris stressed that his teammates have to keep their cool.
“This game is more mental. So in most of the places I’ve played at, I’ve been known as smiley because at end of the day, once the referees calls the foul, there’s nothing you can do about it,” Harris said.
We can’t change what the refs call so I try to tell my teammates you’re supposed to be upset but you be smart because this is a mind game and people will try to get advantage whatever they can,” Harris explained.
The series resumes Friday with Game 5 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.