Justin Melton gets it done for Magnolia on both ends in crucial win
MANILA, Philippines–With a crucial game slipping away, Magnolia turned to its winning staple and shut down NorthPort when it mattered most.
The Hotshots’ have always been one of the premiere defensive teams in the PBA since Chito Victolero took over the team in 2016 and they showed it on Wednesday night.
“It was all about our defense in the second half,” Victolero, whose squad trailed by as much as 11 points, told reporters after his team’s 103-90 win. “We allowed them to score 59 points in the first half and I think this conference that was already the most points that we allowed in the first half.”
“I told my players inside the locker room at halftime that if you don’t play defense in the second half you will lose this game and I am very proud of my players, very happy. They really did everything to stop NorthPort in the second half,” he said.
Magnolia held NorthPort to only 31 points in the last two quarters, including just eight points in the final frame.
That suffocating defense started from its backcourt led by Justin Melton, who played a key role in slowing down Batang Pier’s crack guard Stanley Pringle.
“We knew we couldn’t let him (Pringle) get going because he’s the one that can take over a game so we just tried to keep the pressure on him, keep the ball out of his hands if we could. It’s still hard but we did it as a team,” said Melton.
The 32-year-old Melton was all over the floor finishing with 11 points, nine coming in the second half, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Melton said he wasn’t expecting the kind of game he had. He also owed his performance to assistant coach Juno Sauler and teammate Paul Lee, who encouraged him to be aggressive.
“I was surprised myself. I have been struggling lately. Coach Juno was talking to me the whole time and Paul Lee was in my head during the game saying don’t hesitate just shoot it so that’s what I did. I stayed aggressive on offense.”
With Melton hounding him, Pringle had a subpar offensive night with just 15 points, 11 of which came in the first half, after coming into the game averaging 22.5 points. He also turned the ball over five times.
The win put the Hotshots (4-5) in a three-way tie for sixth place with the NLEX Road Warriors and Alaska Aces.
“This win is huge for us. Our conference right now has had a lot of ups and downs,” Melton said. “We had a few games that went down to the last possession and a game like this definitely give us momentum heading into our two games and hopefully into the playoffs.”
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