Magnolia was less than a minute away from nailing last year’s PBA Philippine Cup title—the Hotshots needed a stop on a tough Alex Cabagnot baseline jumper with 57 seconds remaining to halt the San Miguel Beer juggernaut in the league’s most prestigious tournament.
“We were in the Finals in the past two years. But we’ve always come up short—by a possession, by a stop, by a rebound,” Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said.
This season, June Mar Fajardo is out with a broken leg. His absence in the Philippine Cup cripples San Miguel’s bid for a fifth straight crown. Barangay Ginebra is dealing with issues regarding Greg Slaughter. TNT is also facing problems with Ray Parks Jr.
All that while the Hotshots parade a healthy and intact roster. Small wonder the team is staying put personnel-wise.
“We’re not in talks with people, neither are there inquiries,” Victolero told the Inquirer shortly after his charges’ 101-100 loss to Columbian during a friendly at Ronac in Ortigas on Thursday.
The list of Hotshots in trade rumors reads: Chris Banchero, Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang and Jio Jalalon.
Everyone, Victolero said, is staying.
“What we have here, we’re seeking to maximize,” Victolero said. “I’m very happy with the amount of talent we have, especially with our guards.”
“We have a good chance now.”
The Beermen won two titles last season while Ginebra grabbed one, and then publicly set its sights on the all-Filipino crown, leaving the Hotshots largely in the shadows with the new season opening March 8.
But Magnolia has been in the Philippine Cup Finals for two straight seasons and it would be folly to strike them off the list of favorites.
“This will be our third [straight] time [to shoot for the all-Filipino crown], so I’m really pushing [the team],” Victolero said.
Magnolia also reached the finals of the Philippine Cup in 2018, but was swamped by Fajardo and the Beermen, 4-1.
San Miguel came back strong the following season, pushing San Miguel to seven games before falling short in the clutch.
San Miguel was a favorite to win a sixth straight all-Filipino title until Fajardo went down with a broken leg during practice recently. Fajardo is expected to miss the Philippine Cup, at the very least.
Slaughter and Parks, meanwhile, face contract issues with their respective mother clubs.
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