The Magnolia Hotshots sustained their winning form in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup after taking down Barangay Ginebra, 89-79, at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig on Sunday (July 25).
Paul Lee showed the way with 22 points, three rebounds and three assists as the Hotshots stretched their unbeaten record to 3-0 and forged a tie with idle Rain or Shine for a share of lead in the standings.
"We had a good start. ‘Yun ang gusto naman namin (That's what we want). Credit to the players, they gave their best effort,” Magnolia coach Chito Victolero said.
"Credit kay Paul at sa mga teammates niya. Lahat ginawa namin para makuha ang game na ‘to (Credit to Paul and his teammates. We did everything to secure this game)," Victolero continued.
Holding a slim 46-42 advantage at the half, the Hotshots stepped hard on the gas and raced out of the third period, creating a 65-49 separation heading into the final frame.
The Gin Kings leaned on Stanley Pringle to whittle away the double-digit deficit, knocking to within two, 77-79. Magnolia, however, refused to let the game slip from its grip as Lee and Ian Sangalang went on a momentum-swinging spurt that sealed Ginebra's fate.
Sangalang ended up with 17 points, while Calvin Abueva had a near double-double output of 15 points and nine rebounds.
Meanwhile, Pringle saw his all-around effort of 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists go down the drain as the Gin Kings, reigning champion of the conference, fell to a 1-2 card.
Arwind Santos delivered in the clutch to lift San Miguel over Northport, 88-86, in the opening game of a triple-header.
Tied at 86 with less than four seconds remaining, Marcio Lassiter found the ball in his hands and drove hard to the cup before dishing it off to Santos, who drained a straightaway 15-footer that sealed the deal for the Beermen.
With the win, San Miguel rose to a 2-1 record while spoiling the much-awaited Batang Pier debut of Greg Slaughter.
“From the start, I know that it would be a tough game for us because of the presence of Greg Slaughter. We all know that Slaughter is out there to prove something," San Miguel head coach Leo Austria said.
“But the team really wanted to win, especially Arwind," Austria continued. “Congrats, Arwind, for your winning shot. That is what I was expecting from him."
Santos provided an all-around effort with 17 points, five rebounds and three blocks as he turned back the comeback attempt of a NorthPort side that erased a 16-point deficit in the fourth period, where he almost got tossed out after being called for a technical foul with an elbow to Sidney Onwubere's face
CJ Perez emerged as the lead scorer of the Beermen for the second consecutive game, this time finishing with 18 points in a near double-double outing where he also had eight rebounds and five steals.
Alex Cabagnot supplied 16 points and seven assists as he helped Perez fill the absence of Terrence Romeo, who sustained a knee injury in their campaign opener.
On the other hand, Slaughter showed no signs of rust in his first official action since taking a basketball sabbatical as he ended up with a double-double of 23 points and 17 rebounds in a losing effort.
Kevin Alas steered NLEX past Terrafirma, 108-94, en route to their second win in the All-Filipino Conference.
Alas showcased his all-around brilliance with 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting, five rebounds, three steals and two assists as the Road Warriors evened their record at 2-2 while keeping the Dyip winless in two matches.
NLEX trailed Terrafirma in the opening half before cranking up its offensive engine in the third quarter where the Dyip let open the gates for the Road Warriors to take a 71-57 lead.
Terrafirma fought back in the final period, but NLEX never left its foot off the gas.
"'Yung effort lang naman 'yung nag kulang noong first half. Sabi nga ng coaches namin na kahit anong ganda ng game plan, 'pag walang effort, ay hindi kami mananalo. So, I guess it's more on effort on the players," Alas said.
(Translation: We lacked effort in the first half. Like what the coaches have been telling us, no matter how good the game plan is, if there's no effort, we won't win. So, I guess it's more on effort on the players.)
JR Quinahan and Jericho Cruz, who both came through when the Dyip threatened to retake the lead, supplied the Road Warriors with 19 and 15 points, respectively. Cruz also dispersed four boards, four assists, two steals and a block in the contest.
Rookie Calvin Oftana came up big as well with 16 points, seven boards and two dimes.
Terrafirma, on the other hand, could not help but see top overall pick Joshua Munzon's 24-point output go for naught.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.