Calvin Abueva delivered a resounding statement on Saturday (17 July) as he led the Magnolia Hotshots to an 80-73 win over his former team, the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters, in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena.
Abueva, who was dealt to Magnolia in the off-season, imposed his will all over the court, putting up a double-double performance of 26 points and 10 rebounds with three assists in an efficient outing, where he committed only one turnover in over 37 minutes of action.
More than being a steady presence on both ends, he also showed composure down the stretch to be the difference-maker in the match.
With the game tied at 68-all with 4min 44sec left, Abueva went on a scoring tear with six unanswered baskets to give the Hotshots a much-needed 74-68 advantage heading into the final two minutes of the game.
From that point onward, Magnolia never looked back and walked away with its first victory.
As brilliant as Abueva was throughout the contest, the rest of the Hotshots contributed every step of the way.
Paul Lee shouldered some of the offensive load with 21 points, to go along with six rebounds and a pair of assists. No other player from Magnolia's side scored in double-digits, but seven Hotshots tallied at least two points.
"Tulong-tulong lang (It's all about helping each other). It's a team effort," said Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero.
Phoenix, which almost staged a comeback in the homestretch, had four players in double-figures, two of which posted a double-double, in the loss.
Matthew Wright led the Fuel Masters with 20 points and eight rebounds. Vic Manuel had 16 markers and 10 boards, while Jason Perkins managed 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Also on Saturday, TNT Tropang Giga gave coach Chot Reyes a triumphant league return after beating Terrafirma Dyip 86-79 to kickstart their All-Filipino Cup campaign.
The Tropang Giga had to avert a late-game meltdown, as Dyip reduced a 22-point deficit to five in the last three minutes of regulation, only to miss the crucial shots at the waning moments of the game.
With the escape act, TNT provided a positive note for Reyes in his first game back in the league and with the franchise. The seasoned mentor, however, was far from satisfied.
“Obviously, we’re happy we won, but we’re kind of disappointed with the way we played in the last quarter and a half of this game. I thought we weren’t faithful to how we wanted to play this game,” Reyes said.
Still, a win is a win for Reyes and his wards. And the lack of finishing kick proved not enough to dampen the impressive performances of veterans Jayson Castro and Troy Rosario.
Castro took charge of TNT’s offense with 17 points, while Rosario flaunted his all-around wares with a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double effort.
Terrafirma, on the other hand, spoiled top overall pick Joshua Munzon’s debut.
Munzon, the top-ranked 3x3 player of the country, could not get his shots to fall as he went 3-of-15 from the floor to end up with six points.
It was the battle-tested Aldrich Ramos who stepped up for the Dyip with his 17-point outing, while Rashawn McCarthy and Andreas Cahilig chipped in 13 and 12 markers, respectively, in the loss.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.
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