MAGNOLIA Pambansang Manok leaned on the 1-2 punch of Paul Lee and Ian Sangalang to roll back Rain or Shine, 81-70, in the opener of their best-of-three quarterfinal series in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Lee finished with 20 points while Sangalang added 19 points and 13 rebounds as the Hotshots moved within a win of making their first semifinal appearance in more than two years.
Lee and Sangalang struck hardest in the third quarteras the Hotshots erased a 37-42 deficit at halftime to take a 60-50 advantage behind a 23-8 run.
Lee’s triple and two pressure-packed free throws put Magnolia safely ahead, 79-70 with 44 seconds left.
Calvin Abueva added eight points and 13 rebounds for Magnolia, which finished third in the elimination round with an 8-3 win-loss record.
Two other players — Rome de la Rosa and Jio Jalalon — also finished with double digit scores of 10 points.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero was happy with the efforts of his players in a game where they had a whopping 66-43 advantage in rebounds,
“We talked about how to outhustle, outwork our opponent,” said Victolero in an interview posted in the official PBA website.
“In terms of talent, we’re not that deep. Pero chemistty and working hard number one para sa akin itong team na ito. Kita naman sa mga batang ito, ‘yung mga 50-50 balls, hustle,: he added.
Victolero claimed winning the first game of the best-of-three series is crucial.
“To me, very important talaga ang manalo sa Game 1. Yan magbibigay ng momentum.”
Leonard Santillan led Rain or Shine with 17 points, including a three-point shot that made it 60-64 early in the fourth period.
Santillan also had 12 boards for the Elasto Painters.
Rey Nambatac and Javee Mocon added 16 and 11 points, respectively.
Beau Belga had eight points and six rebounds.
Gabe Norwood was limited to only three points on 1-of-7 shooting in almost 27 minutes.
Later, Alex Cabagnot hit the game-winner as San Miguel Beer survived NorthPort, 88-87.
Cabagnot’s basket –a turnaround jumper with 1.5 secinds left — came after Robert Bolick nailed a three-pointer near the center court with 5.1 seconds left to give the Batang Pier an 87-86 lead.
The win ave the Beermen a 1-0 lead in their own best-of-three series.
Cabagnot, who returned after a seven-gane absence, topscored with 20 points for the Beermen.
Mo Tautuaa added 15 points and five rebound and CJ Perez had 14 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Beermen.
June Mar Fajardo had a double-double game with 10 points and 11 rebounds in his much-awaited showdown with NorthPort big man Greg Slaughter.
Sean Anthony led NorthPort with 16 points including nine in the fourth quarter, followed by Slaughter with 15 points and Bolick and Jamie Malonzo with 13 each.
Slaughter also had 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Japeth Aguilar of defending champion Arangay Ginebra reportedly left the Quest Hotel in Clark, Pampanga last Friday to continue his recovery in Manila.
The 34-year-old Aguilar, who went down with a sprained MCL two weeks ago, has since been ruled out for the remainder of the conference.
Ginebra is set to meet top seed Talk N Text in the quarterfinals.
Magnolia (81) — Lee 20, Sangalang 19, Dela Rosa 10, Jalalon 10, Barroca 8, Abueva 8, Corpuz 4, Pascual 2, Reavis 0, Ahanmisi 0, Dionisio 0.
Rain or Shine (70) — Santillan 17, Nambatac 16, Mocon 11, Belga 8, Borboran 5, Caracut 3, Norwood 3, Ponferada 3, Torres 2, Yap 2, Wong 0, Asistio 0.
Quarterscores: 21-16, 37-42, 60-50, 81-70.
San Miguel (88) – Cabagnot 20, Tautuaa 15, Perez 14, Ross 12, Fajardo 10, Santos 9, Lassiter 8, Pessumal 0, Zamar 0, Gotladera 0.
NorthPort (87) – Anthony 16, Slaughter 15, Bolick 13, Malonzo 13, Taha 10, Ferrer 8, Onwubere 7, Elorde 3, Rike 2, Balanza 0, Lanete 0.
Quarterscores: 21-19; 44-43; 65-60; 88-87.