Calvin Abueva came up big in the nick of time as Magnolia escaped NorthPort, 90-89, to clinch a playoff spot in the 2021 Honda PBA Philippine Cup, Friday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The ‘Beast’ caught the inbound pass of Rome Dela Rosa with 2.6 seconds left, carved a bit of space before hoisting it up just right before the final buzzer rang as the Hotshots emerged victorious in a wild nip-and-tuck endgame.
Abueva finished with 15 points as the perennial contenders bounced back from their loss to Rain or Shine last week and improved to 7-3.
“That’s a designed play, a back screen to Calvin, an alley-oop. Kung wala ‘yun, next option si Paul. Good thing na-execute,” said head coach Chito Victolero.
Ian Sangalang top-scored for the Hotshots with 26 points and 10 rebounds, though he was not able to finish until the last possession as he got booted out after being called for his sixth foul on Kevin Ferrer with 3.9 ticks left.
That foul nearly proved costly as Ferrer was able to sink the contact lay-up to put his Batang Pier ahead, 89-88, but he missed his bonus and his teammates failed to secure the ball, paving the way for the Abueva winner.
It was just one of the breaks that could have cost Magnolia the game. Earlier, it actually had a chance to widen their one-point lead with 7.3 seconds left, but Paul Lee failed to convert the technical free throw.
That shot was awarded to the Hotshots after Sean Anthony called for a timeout with none left. The ball remained in NorthPort’s possession, which led to that shot of Ferrer — his only field goal of the game.
Another stroke of luck that went Magnolia’s way was the Batang Pier’s decision to sub out Greg Slaughter, who actually covered the inbound of their foes well in the last play. Without him, Rome Dela Rosa was able to dish it to Abueva.
“Thanks also to Rome, na malaki yung dibdib at malaki yung puso to pass it to Calvin,” lauded Victolero.
Lee finished with 13 points, as Dela Rosa and Mark Barroca chimed in 10 points apiece in the win that placed them at third in the standings.
“This was our chance to go to the quarters, and then also we have a chance to take the number two spot. Talagang pinaghandaan namin at chinallenge namin yung sarili namin to get this W,” said Victolero.
Magnolia will now look to improve their chances of placing at second for a coveted twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters against rivals San Miguel Beer on Sunday at 4:35 p.m. in a clash of league titans.
“We have only one-day preparation because we have a game on Sunday against San Miguel. But ang good thing lang doon is parehas lang. We’ll just try to rest muna, and think about San Miguel maybe tonight,” Victolero said.
Slaughter, meanwhile, led NorthPort with 21 points and eight rebounds as he returned from a two-game absence due to cellulitis.
Anthony made 16 points, as Paolo Taha and rookie Jamie Malonzo added 14 each as the Batang Pier absorbed their second loss in a row since winning three straight last week, keeping coach Pido Jarencio winless in Bacolor.
The team dropped to 4-5 in the standings but remains at seventh, and it will aim to keep itself within the top eight against the Elasto Painters also on Sunday.
Magnolia 90 – Sangalang 26, Abueva 15, Lee 13, Barroca 10, Dela Rosa 10, Ahanmisi 8, Dionisio 6, Jalalon 2, Corpuz 0, Reavis 0.
NorthPort 89 – Slaughter 21, Anthony 16, Taha 14, Malonzo 14, Bolick 10, Onwubere 4, Lanete 4, Rike 2, Balanza 2, Ferrer 2, Elorde 0, Grey 0.
Quarterscores: 12-26, 44-47, 68-67, 90-89.