Hotshots a big threat this time
Given little chance to avenge their title loss last year, the Magnolia Hotshots continued to defy the dire prediction by humbling the record-seeking and defending champion San Miguel Beermen again in their best-of-seven series for the 2019 Philippine Cup championship.
The Hotshots showed their series-opening 99-94 win was no fluke by holding the Beermen to their second lowest output this season with an 86-82 decision Sunday to grab a 2-1 lead in their all-Filipino showdown which SMB won with a 4-0 sweep after starting with a loss last year.
“As I’ve been saying, if we limit San Miguel under 100 points, if we go to our defensive game, we have a big chance,” said coach Chito Victolero, who is gunning for a second straight championship after ruling the 2018 Governors’ Cup.
While Magnolia didn’t come close to matching the impressive SMB triumph in Game 2 where the Beermen led by as much as 21 points before coasting to a 108-101 win, the Hotshots were simply better than their supposedly super-sharp rivals, who scored only 12 points in the second quarter and trailed, 36-45, at halftime.
All told, the elite starting five of SMB and prized recruits Terrence Romeo and Christian Standhardinger, who combined for 101 points in Game 2, produced only 82 this time. SMB’s lowest output in its bid for a fifth straight Philippine Cup crown came in an 80-78 squeaker over TNT KaTropa in their quarterfinal duel.
And SMB star June Mar Fajardo, who is set to capture a sixth straight Best Player of the Conference award before Game 4 this Wednesday, just didn’t have the defense to stop Magnolia’s Ian Sangalang and Rafi Reavis.
Sangalang matched Fajardo’s 17 points behind the game-high 22 of Mark Barroca and the 41-year-old Reavis, who shone when Magnolia won its do-or-die semifinal duel with Rain or Shine, added 16 including two offensive rebounds. The two also combined for 31 rebounds in a massive 71-46 edge off both boards by the Hotshots.
Another win tomorrow gives Magnolia a chance to go for the clincher either this Friday or Sunday.
If the Beermen, who are gunning for the league’s first five straight Philippine Cup crowns, forge another tie tomorrow, the tiebreaker takes place Friday with Game 6 set Sunday and the possible Game 7 next Wednesday.
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