Hotshots find a way to hold things together against Gin Kings
Coach Chito Victolero heaved a sigh of relief shortly after Magnolia’s victory over sister team Barangay Ginebra in the Philippine Cup eliminations on Sunday night.
It was the only type of reaction he could let out after the Hotshots had gone through a tumultuous week inside the Philippine Basketball Association bubble where his squad had to go through a “lot of distractions.”
There was his Hotshots’ three-game slump that he thought put a dent on the team’s morale.
There was that meltdown his charges suffered against Phoenix just two nights before.
And there was the threat that the league’s multisite competition bubble has been compromised.
But deep down, Victolero knew his team was capable of conquering such obstacles.
“I felt these were challenges we had to take on,” he told reporters at a quiet Angeles University Foundation powered by Smart 5G here after what he also felt was a character-restoring victory during their famed matchup with the highly favored Gin Kings, which usually attracts fans by the throng.
Magnolia surely looked the part.
The Hotshots outscored Ginebra in nearly all departments: from inside (44-34), second-chance looks (19-15), and in transition (11-8), pretty much dictating the pace all night long.
The Hotshots got the goods from six players, including a breakout performance from off-season acquisition Jackson Corpuz, who scored a team-best 20 points, most of which coming in the first half.
“The boys are no longer that pressured,” said Victolero, whose squad improved to 2-4, which was sweeter because his Hotshots dealt their sister team a first loss in five outings, and it came in the most anticipated game of the conference that was played without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic.
And while Victolero talked about just how much the win lifted his team’s spirits, he said it’s also something they could use as this compressed tournament wears on as the win snapped a string of four straight losses to the crowd-darlings.
“It’s a bit new to us since we’re so used to ‘Clasico’ usually having 20,000 people pack Araneta or whichever venue,” he said.
But more than the rivalry, and the victory that pushed Purefood’s all-time record against Ginebra to 103-95, it’s finally getting back to a groove that’s gotten Victolero high and excited.
“The most important thing now is that we got the W,” he said. “It’s what we really, really need right now.”
“Last year, if you could remember, we also started 1-4. And even after a shaky start, we were able to get momentum,” he said.
That groove led them to a Finals date against another sibling: five-time All-Filipino champion San Miguel Beer, which Magnolia nearly dethroned.
“Hopefully, we get the same result,” Victolero said.
He maybe just forgot to say that they would want to go all the way this time.
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