FiberXers win third straight game vs heavyweight Hotshots for solo lead
Taking on a title contender after manhandling two cellar-dwellers, Converge made a good account with a pulsating 111-109 escape from Magnolia on Sunday night at Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
The FiberXers stayed perfect in the Governors’ Cup eliminations, using a steely resolve in the endgame to ultimately deny the Hotshots—the last team to rule the third conference outside of Barangay Ginebra in the last five years—a pleasant conference debut.
“This is big for us because the Hotshots were one of the teams that beat us last conference,” Converge coach Aldin Ayo told the Inquirer shortly after his charges’ high-wire escape before a loud crowd at the hilltop arena.
“We were also up. We were leading 14 earlier, and I thought to myself, this feels like déjà vu. Good thing the players responded—especially on defense. We were able to make several stops,” he went on.
The two clubs also figured in a frantic endgame last October, when Magnolia overhauled a double-digit deficit to prevail, 109-105.
San Miguel Beer started the Jorge Gallent era with a 114-93 whipping of Phoenix later in the night.
The Beermen doubled up on the Fuel Masters right in the first quarter, taking a 42-21 lead into the second and never being threatened from there.
Converge dodged a repeat of that with import Jamaal Franklin leading the way with 26 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, not really needing to match his previous scoring output of 42 points with the FiberXers’ locals also stepping up to the plate.
Maverick Ahanmisi is sustaining his fine play this conference by chipping in with 22 points, while Alec Stockton scattered 18 as Converge won for the third straight game, far bettering its start in the Commissioner’s Cup where it went 1-2.
Aljun Melecio and Jeron Teng also finished with at least 11 points each as the FiberXers brace for 0-2 Rain or Shine.
Wary of Yeng
Ayo, however, feels he’d deal with just as much resistance against a crew that has always proven itself a tough nut to crack.
“The Painters are a formidable bunch. And coach Yeng [Guiao] is quite the assignment as well,” said Ayo. “We won against them last time, thanks to Justin [Arana’s] shot. It should be a tough game for us.”
Magnolia got the goods from Erik McCree, who turned in 38 points and 16 rebounds and managed to help the Hotshots to within two points twice.
But Converge wasn’t going to be denied, with Franklin scoring the FiberXers’ final five points, and the locals forcing the Hotshots’ international journeyman to an ill-advised triple in the dying moments.
Paul Lee had 21 points and four assists, while Jio Jalalon and Calvin Abueva finished with at least 12 in the losing effort.
Magnolia now turns its sights on a TNT crew that is off to a good start under Jojo Lastimosa, the team’s manager who is standing in for Chot Reyes. INQ
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