ANTIPOLO CITY—Paul Lee and the Magnolia Hotshots picked the perfect time to end a seven-game losing skid against defending champion Barangay Ginebra.
Lee stuck dagger after dagger into the hearts of the Gin Kings as the Hotshots took Game 1 with a 106-98 victory Saturday night in the semifinals of the PBA Governors’ Cup at Ynares Center here.
Those clutch hits by the guard known as the “Lethal Weapon” gave Magnolia a crucial headstart in their best-of-five showdown for a Finals berth and, more importantly, restored confidence within the Hotshots, who have been slapped around by the Gin Kings in their previous seven meetings.
“We needed to believe,” said Hotshots coach Chito Victolero. “We needed to send a message also.
“When we started preparing for Ginebra, I told my players that it’s always a grinding game. It’s the ‘Clasico.’ The emotions, the hype [are there]. The perseverance to snare Game 1 was evident in the game.”
Lee provided most of the evidence. With Ginebra creeping to within 95-93, Lee scored 10 points—including a highlight-reel basket off a spin move through the teeth of the Ginebra defense—in the final 3:36 to put the game away and preserve the game-long heroics of Romeo Travis, who came through with a monster output of 37 points, 16 rebounds and five assists.
Lee wound up with 27 points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals.
The Hotshots and the Gin Kings go at it again on Monday at Smart Araneta Coliseum. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. and Victolero was quick to remind everyone that Magnolia hadn’t achieved anything just yet, not with the two-time reigning champion on the opposite end of the court.
“We’re still the underdogs. [Ginebra] still has the skills, the talent, the coach,” he noted.
It was a sorry loss for Ginebra, which led by as many as 12 in the opening period.
Justin Brownlee led the Gin Kings with 37 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.
Meanwhile, Meralco coach Norman Black spoke about scaling mountains Friday night, after the Bolts won a sixth straight do-or-die game to rise from the No. 7 seed and book a semifinal berth. That’s why Alaska coach Alex Compton is not leaving anything to chance.
“Meralco’s on a huge win streak. I knew that when we beat them [in the elimination round], that was far from their best [form],” said Compton, who watched the Bolts dismiss No. 2 Phoenix , 108-103, in their quarterfinal showdown.
The Aces and the Bolts figure in a semifinal saga that comes off wraps Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Ynares Center here.
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