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Seedings hold

Higher-ranked Hotshots, Beermen carve out contrasting victories to move within another win of PH Cup Final Four
/ 04:02 AM September 27, 2021

Alex Cabagnot missed seven games but returns to drill the winning jumper that saved San Miguel from a NorthPort upset. —PHOTOS FROM PBA IMAGES

Rolling its sleeves in the third, Magnolia went about the second half of Game 1 of its PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal series in a workman-like manner to dispatch of Rain or Shine with relative ease.

Sister team San Miguel Beer on the other hand, had to look at defeat straight in the eye until the literal dying second before surviving NorthPort as the playoffs’ Nos. 3 and 4 seeds took different routes in moving within another victory of the semifinals at Don Honorio Ventura State University gym in Bacolor, Pampanga on Sunday.

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“The Game 1 is very important, because that affords a team momentum,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero after an 81-70 victory over the Elasto Painters. “You saw it earlier. We were down in the first half, but we kept on executing.

“And I think that’s the most important thing—to keep on executing. So we got the W.”

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The Beermen, the all-Filipino dynasty of the last decade, blew a nine-point lead with 4:25 to play and needed a running jumper from Alex Cabagnot in the last 1.5 ticks to pull out an 88-87 nipping of the Batang Pier to take command of their separate series and keep alive hopes of returning to the title series.

San Miguel, mainly because six-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo was injured the whole of last year, missed the championship playoffs in the bubble last season as Barangay Ginebra became the first all-Filipino champion in the last six years outside of the Beermen.

Bolts also get going

The Gin Kings, meanwhile, have their work cut out for them in trying to creep into the semifinals, as they qualified as the No. 8 seed via the backdoor and would need to beat No. 1 TNT two straight times to advance. Game 1 of that KO series for Ginebra will be on Wednesday after the routine health check on all teams.

Second-ranked Meralco also has a win-once advantage over No. 7 NLEX, with the Bolts taking the first of those two chances also on Wednesday.

Cabagnot, who rejoined the team only on Saturday after being out with a meniscus tear, saved the Beermen with that jumper as NorthPort had taken a one-point lead heading into the final 5.1 seconds after a Robert Bolick triple that seemingly came from the parking lot.

“I just got in last night, and I’m thankful to my coach who gave me the trust,” said Cabagnot. “I had my apprehensions, but in full fashion of our coach being a great coach, he gave me the confidence.”

His apprehensions actually didn’t show as he finished with 20 points in just close to 22 minutes on the floor to lead four other Beermen in twin digits.

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“This would’ve never happened if coach didn’t play me. I mean, I know a lot of coaches who won’t field a player without practice. Coach had an open mind and just trusted his gut instinct and me. So I just repaid that trust,” said Cabagnot, who missed seven games.

Confidence shows

Sean Anthony had 16 points and Bolick finished with 13 for the Batang Pier, who also drew 15 points and 10 rebounds from the 7-foot Greg Slaughter.

“I’m confident in my players being ready to play once they show up. For Alex, he’s familiar with that situation,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria. “In the last five seconds [after Bolick hit that three-pointer], he already knew what he was going to do.”

Ian Sangalang uncorked eight of his 19 points in the third frame, where the Hotshots outscored the Painters, 23-8.

After Sangalang was done doing his damage on Rain or Shine, Paul Lee then took over in the payoff period, unloading 14 of his 20 points as the Hotshots finished off the Painters with a flurry and will have all sorts of momentum going into Game 2. INQ

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