Lee leads Hotshots to semis after gaining Gilas pool berth
Tuesday night couldn’t have ended on a better note for Paul Lee. Magnolia, after some gritty moments, is in the semifinals of the PBA Governors’ Cup and the gutsy point guard, who put away Blackwater with two game-cementing free throws, earned another shot at the national team.
Romeo Travis’ triple-double was the fuel in the Hotshots’ 103-99 victory over the Elite but Lee had a hand in the victory as well: He led all scorers with 22 points and plucked a rebound off a missed game-winning triple attempt by Blackwater’s Nards Pinto before knocking down the two free throws that put the game beyond reach.
Magnolia will have its hands full in the semifinals, with No. 1 Barangay Ginebra, the defending champion, also advancing after a methodical 111-75 rout of No. 8 NLEX in the second game.
Before taking the court against the Gin Kings, Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao held court at Smart Araneta Coliseum’s press room, where he announced the 20 members of the national pool from where he will draw the 12 players that will represent the country in the upcoming Fiba World Cup qualifying window.
Lee made the list; naturalized player Andray Blatche—for so long the anchor of Philippine quintets in Fiba tournaments—did not.
“We wanted to preserve the chemistry that’s already within the team with (naturalized players) Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle,” Guiao explained. “Besides, Christian’s numbers in the Asian Games and in the past windows are difficult to argue against.”
Joining Lee in the pool were San Miguel Beer stalwarts Standhardinger, June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot, Barangay Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson and LA Tenorio, TNT KaTropa’s Jayson Castro and Troy Rosario, NorthPort’s Pringle, Rain or Shine’s Beau Belga and Gabe Norwood, Lee’s Magnolia teammate Ian Sangalang, Phoenix Fuel’s Matthew Wright and Blackwater’s JP Erram.
Former La Salle star and current Gilas cadet Ricci Rivero, who will suit up for the UP Maroons in the UAAP next year, and high school phenom Kai Sotto of Ateneo also made the pool.
“We want to accelerate Kai’s learning by giving him better opposition to play against,” said Guiao.
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