Magnolia, hampered by injuries and all, came from behind and added to the woes of NLEX by way of a 112-109 decision to continue its perfect run in the 2022 PBA Governors’ Cup, Wednesday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
Mike Harris attacked counterpart KJ McDaniels’ defense for a tough lay-up with exactly 12 seconds left, and the Hotshots went on to complete the fightback from 14 down in the third as their foes paid dearly for their collapse.
Rookie Matt Nieto actually had the opportunity to put the Road Warriors ahead in the back-and-forth battle, but missed all three of his free throws with 32.4 ticks left, paving the way for the opposition to increase their lead.
NLEX still had enough time to tie the game, but McDaniels and Don Trollano missed all of their shots from beyond the arc as time expired.
“They finished the game strong,” lauded head coach Chito Victolero of his charges. “So ‘yun lang, it’s a total team effort.”
Harris led Magnolia with 31 points and 10 rebounds in a foul-plagued outing, where he was called for four personal fouls.
The 2018 Governors’ Cup Best Import was actually out for a while during the fourth quarter due to his situation, but it was a time when locals Ian Sangalang, Mark Barroca, and Aris Dionisio spearheaded the furious rally.
Down by 11 points entering the final frame, the trio joined hands for a 15-4 assault that tied the game up at 92-all with 7:50 remaining.
That’s when both squads traded blows a la boxing match, with Paul Lee delivering a big three-pointer to put the Hotshots ahead 98-96 with 5:31 to go. Harris scored moments later to make it a four-point spread.
NLEX refused to go down, still. Kevin Alas hit a triple of his own to give the Road Warriors the edge again, 105-104, with less than three minutes left.
That, however, proved to be their last taste of the lead. Lee replied with a baseline jumper off a second chance 30 seconds later, and NLEX went on to play catch-up since then no thanks to Barroca and Harris.
But Magnolia also had its fair share of blunders. Clinging on to a 110-109 lead with less than a minute left, Lee was called for an offensive foul as he tried to get rid of Don Trollano’s defense while trying to curl off the screen.
Then there was Jio Jalalon, who was whistled for a foul against Nieto that sent the Gilas draftee to the foul line for three freebies.
Then again, Nieto missed all of his freebies in what was an uncharacteristic display of jitters from the veteran internationalist. And NLEX went on to suffer its third loss in a row as it failed to properly set it up in the last possession.
“Buti na lang medyo mga beterano talaga ang mga players ko. Paul, Mark, Ian, and then Mike. So, we just try to compete, and then try to grind every second or every minute of the game, especially in crunch time,” Victolero said.
Lee finished with 21 points in the win that extended Magnolia’s unbeaten streak to five, which is the team’s best start under Victolero.
“Credit to the players ‘yung 5-0 namin,” said the champion mentor, who was surprised to know about their start. “Credit to them, because they committed to the system. Talagang in-embrace nila ‘yung ginagawa namin.”
Sangalang supplied 14 points, while Barroca added 11 for the Hotshots, who are missing the services of Calvin Abueva, Rome Dela Rosa, and James Laput as the trio remain on the sidelines due to injuries.
“Hopefully, ‘yung mga injured players namin, sana makabalik in time na kailangan namin sila. I think I heard that Calvin will be out for two to three weeks. Hopefully, we can have Rome next week,” Victolero said.
Magnolia will look to stretch its unscathed run against another streaking team in Phoenix Super LPG (4-2) on Saturday at 6:45 p.m.
McDaniels led NLEX with 35 points and 13 rebounds in another defeat since starting the conference with four straight victories.
Alas supplied 22 points, while Trollano made 18 points and eight rebounds for the Road Warriors, who are also missing key players like Calvin Oftana and Tony Semerad because of injuries.
The MVP ball club (4-3) hopes to redeem itself against a win-hungry Blackwater (0-6; 0-25 since 2020) on Friday at 3:00 p.m.
Magnolia 112 – Harris 31, Lee 21, Sangalang 14, Barroca 11, Ahanmisi 9, Wong 8, Dionisio 7, Corpuz 6, Ahanmisi 5, Reavis 0.
NLEX 109 – McDaniels 35, Alas 22, Trollano 18, Cruz 12, Quiñahan 8, Nieto 7, Soyud 5, Porter 2, Varilla 0, Rosales 0, Paniamogan 0, Ighalo 0.
Quarterscores: 22-25, 54-56, 77-88, 112-109.
The second game of each playdate is also livestreamed on SMART Sports.