Magnolia has a chance to book the first ticket to the 2021 Honda PBA Philippine Cup Finals when it battles Meralco in the semis’ Game Five on Wednesday.
Match is at 3:00 PM at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, with the Hotshots keen to continue their winning ways after Sunday’s 81-69 victory thanks to the efforts of Mark Barroca, Ian Sangalang, and Calvin Abueva.
Should they take care of business, it would be the storied ball club’s third all-Filipino finals appearance in four seasons.
Coach Chito Victolero had previously said that it is their ‘most important game,’ with the team motivated by the lessons from Game Three. There, they fell into the complacency trap and lost to an undermanned Bolts.
“We learned from Game Three – we have to stay focused,” he said. “We have to remind everybody that the most important game na ilalaro namin is ‘yung game namin na lalaruin on that day – not Game Six, not Game Seven, but Game Five.”
It remains unsure if Meralco will have top big man Raymond Almazan back for the crucial match. Fortunately, though, coach Norman Black can now extend his rotation with the return of Trevis Jackson and Jammer Jamito.
The two players, who underwent the league’s health and safety protocols, returned to the team in Game Four last Sunday.
This will be yet another do-or-die situation for the MVP Group-owned ball club, which got pushed to the edge by NLEX back in the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, long-time rivals San Miguel and TNT will once again wrest control of their own best-of-seven affair at 6:00 PM.
The Beermen have equalized the series at 2-2 last Sunday through a dominant 115-98 conquest. And head coach Leo Austria hopes that his wards will remain as hungry as they were the last time out as they aim for the lead.
“There’s a lot of adjustment. Let’s see what we can do. They have to keep grounded and not celebrate this big win for us. Instead, think of something that could help us again in our next game,” said the champion coach.
Spearheading Game Four’s win was Mo Tautuaa with his conference-high 25 points and nine rebound. Six other players also scored in double figures in the victory – the most lopsided result in the entire semis so far.
SMB played a Tropang Giga crew last game without Poy Erram, who exited the game after slamming face-first into the floor early in the second quarter as Tautuaa inadvertently landed on his head in a loose ball battle.
It was then reported a day after that he is suspected to have suffered a fractured cheekbone, thus the uncertainty on his status for Game Five.
That would definitely be crucial for a team that has been missing former MVP Kelly Williams. He could, however, be on his way back from clearing protocols.
Should both series go the distance, the deciding Game Seven seven will be on Sunday, October 17.