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Hotshots escape skidding Elite, zoom to solo first

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Ian Sangalang saved the Magnolia Hotshots from defeat, executing pivotal plays on both ends of the court to help his team escape an upset-hungry Blackwater Elite, 78-72, and extend their winning streak to five, Friday at Mall of Asia Arena.

Sangalang made a jumper with 55.1 seconds left to halt the Elite’s 14-2 run from 12 points down, and forced Blackwater star Mac Belo to a backing violation seven seconds after — enough to help Magnolia escape later on.

The heroics of the six-foot-seven slotman, who finished with eight points and three rebounds, also saved the efforts of long-time teammates Aldrech Ramos and Mark Barroca, who each scored 14 to lead the Hotshots.

“It was a very tough game because we know Blackwater will come out very hard in this game,” said coach Chito Victolero. “Although we had some lapses in the end but siguro because of our chemistry, naka-lusot kami sa game na to.

“A win is a win,” the second-year Magnolia head mentor added. “But we need to improve siguro yung execution namin sa dulo, especially ‘pag lamang kami, medyo nagre-relax kami eh. Yun pa yung mga kailangan naming i-improve.”

Marc Pingris only scored four points, but strongly made his presence felt with 12 rebounds and eight assists. Justin Melton also nearly had a double-double outing with eight markers and seven boards along with two dimes.

The Hotshots are now sitting atop the 2018 Philippine Cup standings with a 6-1 slate, and have become the first team to book a slot in the quarterfinals, according to league’s chief statistician Fidel Mangonon.

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Sophomore Belo led Blackwater, who have now dropped their fourth loss in a row and are now 2-5, with a career-high tying 25 points — 14 in the final frame alone — on top of six rebounds and a game-high six steals.

Former Hotshot Allein Maliksi failed to execute his revenge game, but still produced 17 markers on 7-of-20 shooting along with four rebounds. Poy Erram was four points short of a double-double with six points and 13 caroms.

Both teams will have the San Miguel Beermen as their next opponent. Magnolia will face them this Sunday, February 4, 7:00 PM at Ynares Center Antipolo, while Blackwater will play them next Friday, February 9, 4:30 PM at Cuneta Astrodome.

The Scores:

Magnolia 78 — Barroca 14, Ramos 14, Melton 8, Sangalang 8, Pascual 7, Dela Rosa 6, Jalalon 6, Simon 6, Pingris 4, Herndon 3, Reavis 2, Brondial 0, Gamalinda 0.

Blackwater 72 — Belo 25, Maliksi 17, Cortez 8, Erram 6, Jose 4, Pinto 3, DiGregorio 2, Marcelo 2, Sena 2, Sumang 2, Palma 1, Cruz 0, Javier 0.

Quarterscores: 23-13, 42-29, 61-54, 78-72.

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