After grueling stretch, Hotshots now looking at brighter days
Magnolia barely made it past a gallant enemy on Sunday and the Hotshots moved within a win of climbing to .500, but that did not keep coach Chito Victolero from celebrating the victory in a big way.
“Actually, I salute my players so much,” he said on the heels of an 89-84 decision over Barangay Ginebra in the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. “I mean, we talked about adversity, about challenges. We played three games in the last five days and played elite teams. Our goal was to win two out of three, and we did just that.”
Ian Sangalang and Jio Jalalon starred in the Hotshots’ second win in five games overall, putting up 24 and 19 points, respectively, to buck the absence of a recovering Paul Lee and the sudden exit of Calvin Abueva, who was ejected early in the fourth quarter.
Bridesmaids of last year’s Philippine Cup, the Hotshots were made to run the gauntlet last week. Before taking on the crowd darlings, they played dangerous NorthPort and a San Miguel Beer crew raring to reclaim its lofty place in the tournament, prevailing only against the Batang Pier.
Entering the halfway point of the conference, Victolero knows that his charges are nearing their physical limits because of the schedule.
“All credit to the players,” he said. “I know just how tired they are. I know that they’ve been going through things mentally and physically.”
But it’s not like this is the first time it has happened to this rugged crew.
“We’ve been here before, we’ve been together for a while,” said Victolero.
Magnolia also lost four of its first five outings in the 2019 PH Cup before winning all but one of its next six matches to make the Finals and lose to the Beermen in seven games.
“I know these guys—they will not back down from anything,” said Victolero. “They will keep on pushing.” INQ