Ian Sangalang hardly looked like a man with an ailing back, coming up big on both ends in the stretch on Sunday night to carry Magnolia past NorthPort, 83-76, as the Hotshots won a fifth straight game that kept them in the hunt for a twice-to-beat privilege in the PBA Philippine Cup at Angeles University Foundation powered by Smart 5G.
Sangalang made key baskets and defensive plays inside the final three minutes to help keep the Batang Pier at bay as the Hotshots sustained their assault on the leaders after rising to 6-4 to carry their chance of a top four finish when they play Blackwater at the end of the elimination round on Wednesday.
‘Fighting it out’
“There were times we wanted to pull him out of the game to re-treat his injuries,” coach Chito Victolero said during the winning coach’s interview. “But he kept on saying he’d fight this one out, so I’m really proud of Ian.
“His heart is unmatched. He really wants to help this team,” he said of Sangalang, who, back spasms or not, still finished with 23 and nine rebounds in a 28-minute job coming off the bench.
Meralco also improved to 6-4 and remained in the top four race after Chris Newsome played hero in a 95-93 nipping of Terrafirma in an earlier game.
Newsome came through in the clutch, knocking down a tough fadeaway jumper over another former Rookie of the Year in CJ Perez to win the game for the Bolts, who haven’t advanced past the eliminations of this conference for the last four years.
“I just put the ball in the hands of Newsome. I mean, he has been our best player this conference,” said Meralco coach Norman Black.
Rain or Shine checked a three-game skid with an 82-71 ripping of Blackwater to be at 5-4 and on track for a playoff spot. The Elite dropped to 2-7 after a sixth straight loss.
Paul Lee eased up on scoring this time, scoring only 14 points after dropping 31 the night before against his former team, Rain or Shine. He made up for that with a team-best eight feeds as a total of five players finished in double figures for Victolero.
Celebrate for a day
NorthPort was again led by Christian Standhardinger, who had 18 points and 17 rebounds. Kevin Ferrer tossed in 18, but the Batang Pier terribly missed do-it-all skipper Sean Anthony and lost a fourth straight game in a 1-8 card, tied for the bottom with Terrafirma and out of it all since last week.The win gives Victolero and his charges something to celebrate. At least for one night.
“I feel like nobody believes that we’d make it this far,” the Hotshots mentor told reporters here as a bum start had left them wallowing in the lower half of the standings before coming up with this run.
Not fond of leaving things to chance, Victolero knows he’ll have to win against Blackwater to have a chance at a top four finish.
And he knows his team—which dropped four its first five outings—doesn’t have the luxury to choose at this point.
“I can’t rely on other teams when it comes to our chances,” he said. “But I can rely on my team on Wednesday to have a chance.”
“And if we end up with a twice-to-win disadvantage [by finishing in the bottom half of the eight-team field that will make the playoffs], I know we’d still work hard for it,” Victolero said. INQ
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