Mark Barroca felt as if a huge weight was taken off his chest, after he and the Magnolia Hotshots were able escape the clutches of a gutsy GlobalPort Batang Pier side, 86-79, in their playoff clash Tuesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Magnolia almost blew their win-once incentive to the Batang Pier, when the latter zoomed to a 26-6 lead early. They raced back and led by 12 in the fourth, but had to hang on to it as GlobalPort surged late and closed by four.
“Masarap na nanalo. Happy kami. Parang nagchampion nga kami nung nanalo kami eh. Grabe,” said Barroca, who top-billed for the Hotshots with 17 points and three assists.
“‘Di [talaga] basta-basta makapasok ng semis.”
Asked what the key was that led to the victory, Barroca believes that physicality played a major key in it.
“Key doon is physicality,” shared the native of Zamboanga. “Kasi yung Global pisikal sila eh. Kami nagfocus kami sa referee nung una, reklamo kami, parang nawala si coach (Chito Victoleto) din. So nagregroup kami na ‘sige maglaro lang tayo, magpisikal din tayo.’
“Yun, balik depensa kami, nagpressure kami ulit, nakabalik kami.”
And that kind of physicality they had experienced from the Batang Pier, the 5-foot-10 guard thinks, will be one of the lessons that they can bring to the 2018 Philippine Cup semifinals, where they will face either NLEX or Alaska.
“Yun nga yung ano sa playoffs, ‘di ba. Grabe na yung physicality. Yung contact andyan na, hinahayaan na ng referees. Normal lang siguro pag playoffs talaga,” said the seven-year pro. “‘Pag playoffs, iba na talaga.”
Eyes will now be on the Hotshots if they can put an end to their Finals drought this season. But even with the odds seemingly in their favor due to the way they have been running things, Barroca doesn’t want to think ahead.
“‘Di pa naman namin tinitignan yung Finals. Ang goal namin is makabalik ng semifinals, pero ngayon yung goal lang namin is to take it one game at a time lang. Kasi mahirap umisip kaagad eh,” Barroca warned.
“Yan yung iniisip namin last conference eh, maka-Finals kami. Lahat ng semifinals namin, Finals ang iniisip namin. Siguro ngayon mas naging matured kami,” he added.
“One game at a time naman.”