Magnolia gets the goods from a trio of guards, led by Paul Lee, in bringing down a second straight PH Cup heavyweight
Just before a must-win game on Wednesday night, Chito Victolero huddled his charges and told them all about pressure.
He didn’t give out much of the details other than asking his Magnolia Hotshots to look back on all the years that they’ve been together—and the character they have forged in all those times.
Practically facing KO matches in the resumption of the PBA Philippine Cup, the Hotshots showed the character that Victolero was talking about as Magnolia humbled a second straight heavyweight in TNT, 102-92, to stay in the playoff hunt at Angeles University Foundation powered by Smart 5G.
“We’ve been [together] for four years. I know this team’s character, so we just tried to handle the pressure better,” he told reporters here after the gutsy victory that hiked Magnolia’s record to 3-4 inside the bubble.
Paul Lee scored 27 points, Chris Banchero added 19 and a third point guard in Marc Barroca scattered 14 for the Hotshots, who kept the fancied Tropang Giga within arm’s length practically all night with a defensive effort that refused to budge and an offense that was truly efficient.
Barangay Ginebra dismantled NorthPort in the nightcap, 112-110, and, coupled with the TNT loss, climbed into a tie for the lead with the Tropang Giga at 6-2.
Eight players scored in twin digits for the Gin Kings, who eliminated the Batang Pier at 1-6.
“We prepared for this team,” Victolero said. “We knew their firepower and we just wanted to at least slow them down. We wanted to lower their score and didn’t want them to reach over a hundred points.”
Lee also shadowed TNT’s Ray Parks Jr. in the stretch and Magnolia was so pesky on defense that it held down main TNT guns Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario to a combined 13 points as the Tropang Giga took a second loss in their last three games.
The Hotshots accounted for 12 steals, double the Tropang Giga’s total.
Ian Sangalang was the fourth Hotshot in twin digits with 15. He also had nine rebounds.
“We’re actually in playoff mode now—every game is a do-or-die match for us,” Victolero said. “But I know the character of this team. I know how this team comes back.”
Victolero had hoped to weather that second storm in TNT before facing Terrafirma in less than 24 hours. And he figures that fatigue won’t be a problem.
“We have a deep bench, which we’ll try to maximize, also,” he said.
Coming back would mean that the Hotshots are eyeing to at least make the Finals again and possibly avenging a Game 7 loss to San Miguel Beer last year.
Another side that mathematically stayed in the running was NLEX, which scored a surprising 94-74 rout of Rain or Shine earlier even as Meralco struggled past Blackwater, 89-85, as the Bolts stayed in the middle of the 12-team pack and well inside the playoff picture.
Despite the error-riddled outing, Meralco’s Norman Black still wore a smile as his Bolts remained in the playoff race of this centerpiece conference.
The Bolts haven’t made it past the eliminations here in years, and it was so long that Black needed to research the facts.
“We looked it up. We’ve not made the playoffs in the last four seasons of the all-Filipino conference,” Black said after moving within two more wins of gaining at least a tie for a spot in the next round after rising to 4-3.
Blackwater, after winning its first two games, stumbled for the fifth straight game and is now staring elimination in the eye.
What came as a shocker was the way the Road Warriors handled the Elasto Painters, and NLEX coach Yeng Guiao could only hope that brilliance like this hasn’t come a tad late.
Roaring Road Warriors
“Had we won one or two more games [before this one], things would look a bit better,” the fiery mentor, while shaking his head, said.
“We were in a deep hole. We’re slowly getting out of it, but we’re not yet out of it.”
Jericho Cruz scored 17 points coming off the bench, shooting 12 of his total in the fourth period, even as Kevin Alas and JR Quiñahan finished in twin digits for Guiao.
It was the second straight win for the Road Warriors in a 3-5 card, though they know that they cannot afford to lose any of their remaining three games if they want to have a shot at advancing.
The defeat was just the second in six games for the Elasto Painters.