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PBA: Magnolia boosts playoff bid, holds down NorthPort

By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 09:48 PM March 20, 2019

MANILA, Philippines–How does one bounce back from a strength-sapping, deflating defeat to a fierce rival? Play another scrappy, bruising game that would have further drained more energy—and morale—had it ended in another loss.

This time, however, Magnolia came out with a win as it played in total grind-out fashion in the second half to subdue NorthPort, 103-90, and boost its playoff hopes on Wednesday night in the PBA Philippine Cup at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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The Hotshots turned up the defensive intensity in the second half, limiting the Batang Pier to just 31 points after surrendering 59 in the first two quarters of the match.

“It was all about our defense in the second half,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero. “We gave up 59 in the first half. That’s the most, I think, that we gave up this conference in the first half.”

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And so Victolero sent his wards out of the halftime break with a simple message: “If we don’t play defense in the second half, we will lose this game.”

The Hotshots responded. And the numbers showed it.

Bumping off cutters and funneling drives to crammed, uncomfortable spaces in the middle, Magnolia limited NorthPort to just 24 percent shooting in the second half after the Batang Pier shot 58 percent in the first two periods anchored on 26 points off transition.

“We gave up too many fastbreak points. Usually, if we give up 59 points, that’s already the third quarter for us,” Victolero said.

The Hotshots were so disruptive defensively that NorthPort could only manage eight points in the last quarter—a franchise-low for a team that is currently on a six-game slide after a promising 2-0 start to the conference. The Hotshots thus climbed to 4-5 on a night Paul Lee fired 24 points and attracted a lot of NorthPort’s defensive focus.

Lee hit a triple to bite into NorthPort’s lead and then Rodney Brondial, benefitting from the defensive attention Magnolia’s star guard was getting, found open spots and hit four straight points to give the Hotshots the lead, 83-82, early in the fourth.

It was all Magnolia from thereon as NorthPort couldn’t dust off the scrappy, bruising pressure applied by the Hotshots on defense.

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“We limited [Stanley] Pringle, [Mo] Tautuaa and [Jonathan] Grey. The defense of our small guys on Pringle really worked. It was tiring, but at least we got the W and boosted our playoff chances,” said Victolero, whose wards rebounded from a tough 97-93 overtime defeat to Barangay Ginebra last Sunday.

Grey led NorthPort’s first half assault with 14 points. He was scoreless in the second half. Pringle had 11 in the first two periods but scored just four in the final half.

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TAGS: Magnolia Hotshots, Paul Lee, PBA
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