Higher-ranked Magnolia, Phoenix open PBA quarterfinals
EYEING THE SHORT ROUTE

Higher-ranked Magnolia, Phoenix open PBA quarterfinals

/ 04:30 AM January 17, 2024

PBA Phoenix Fuel Masters' Johnathan Williams

Phoenix Fuel Masters’ Johnathan Williams in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

Phoenix Super LPG no longer has to look far for a motivational quote just to prime itself up when it plunges into the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals this Wednesday. Import Johnathan Williams III had since laid things down last weekend.

“Like what ‘J-3’ said, it’s a new season right now—the playoff season,” said coach Jamike Jarin, recalling a postgame huddle his import had on the heels of a sobering loss to TNT on Sunday.

“It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the elimination round and what happened (on Sunday). It’s going to be a different ballgame,” he went on. “We’re in a position now to get into the semifinals and it’s going to go through Meralco.”

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Fourth-seeded Phoenix and fifth-ranked Meralco take the wraps off an interesting double-header at PhilSports Arena, with the Fuel Masters hoping they would no longer need to use their twice-to-beat protection.

Jarin knows all too well that such a task is easier said than done. Meralco, like his charges, also won eight of its 11 games in the elimination round. And like the Fuel Masters, the Bolts were once on pace to finish as No. 2 in the race.

But what truly keeps Jarin’s guard up is what Phoenix has never accomplished throughout its franchise history: Reach the Finals.
“Meralco is a very experienced team,” he said, underscoring the Bolts’ wealth of experience after having played in multiple championship duels. “We’ll have to play 48 minutes of selfless basketball.”

Over at the other pairing, Magnolia coach Chito Victolero is using the same outlook for his top-ranked crew which is set to battle a TNT side that somehow managed to catch the playoff bus despite grappling with manpower woes.

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“The players know that every time you enter the playoffs, [it’s] a very different atmosphere,” he said.

Powers clash

Magnolia Hotshots import Tyler Bey

Magnolia Hotshots import Tyler Bey. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

The two powerhouses clash at 8 p.m., with Magnolia and its import Tyler Bey looking to take the quicker route to the Final Four.

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“You change your approach. You go to the next level,” Victolero said.

The eighth-seeded Tropang Giga, for their part, are looking a much better lot than they were in the second half of the elimination round with gunner Roger Pogoy back in harness and backup import Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson proving he’s just as solid as his brother Rondae.

And at least, coach Jojo Lastimosa feels that he has the tools to contend, even against the top-ranked Hotshots.

“Just avoid getting blown out,” Lastimosa had said with a chuckle, minutes after booking the last ride to the quarterfinals on Sunday. “But kidding aside, in our losses this conference—aside from Meralco—we were competing. “Even when we went all-Filipino against Ginebra, we competed.

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And that has been one thing consistent for us. It just so happened that we didn’t have the lineup that we wanted (for this tournament), which is why towards the end, we fell short. But now with Roger back, I think we can now have enough guys to perform down the stretch,” Lastimosa said. INQ

TAGS: Basketball, PBA, Sports

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