It is no secret that the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel are heavily favored to win their third straight Governors’ Cup title this season, and odds are also on their side for them to finish off the Magnolia Hotshots in the semis easily.
These expectations came into discussion when the crowd darlings defeated their sister team yet bitter rivals last October 28 at SMART Araneta Coliseum, 93-86 – the victory that helped the Barangay bag a twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals.
But that didn’t stop Magnolia from believing they could beat Ginebra.
And they did.
The Hotshots sent shockwaves out across Antipolo City on Saturday night, as they overcame the Gin Kings and their raucous supporters at the Ynares Center with a rousing 106-98 victory to earn a 1-0 lead in their best-of-five series.
“Just keep believing lang na kaya naming manalo against Ginebra. Yun yung battle cry namin ngayon. Si coach Johnny [Abarrientos] nag-start nun, siya kasi nagsa-scout ‘pag Ginebra so sabi niya, you need to believe,” said Paul Lee.
“Pinupukpok sa amin na we need to believe na we can win, we can do this as a team.
“Everyone naniwala, collective effort and end of the game, nakuha namin yung panalo,” added Lee, who finished with 27 points.
The Hotshots still had to weather a flurry of Ginebra attacks. From allowing them to score 39 in the opener, they limited the Gin Kings to just 16 in the second – Justin Brownlee was held scoreless in that frame, after having 20.
And when Ginebra stormed back from 14 down to just a field goal with less than four minutes left to play, Magnolia showed composure, as Lee scored nine of the Hotshots’ last 11 points to shut the door close for the Barangay.
“Yun yung one good thing na nangyari, yung composure ng team. Weather the storm lang naman eh.
“Sobrang init ni Justin nung first quarter. We just play through it. Ganun yung kailangan gawin just to beat Ginebra,” said Lee proudly.
But as much as everyone in the Hotshots camp is ecstatic with Saturday’s win, Lee remains wary of the way Ginebra will fight back in Game Two on Monday.
“The job is not yet finished. Knowing coach Tim [Cone], you beat him once, he’s gonna beat you twice. We need to be ready,” said the 29-year-old. “The good thing is we have the experience already na ganun yung nangyari.
“Kailangan ready na sa Game Two, forget about Game One tapos na yun. Zero-zero again.”
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