Ian Sangalang came through to save Magnolia past Alaska, 84-82, in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup, Wednesday night at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
The 6-foot-7 slotman caught the nifty pass of Paul Lee and banked it in as time expired, giving the Hotshots their second win in as many games to gain a share of leadership with other 2-0 teams Meralco and Rain or Shine.
Sangalang went on to finish with a game-high 26 points, which is his third career-best. He also collected five rebounds and two assists.
“Actually, we went to staggered screens for Paul, then we would spread out. The Alaska players collapsed on Paul, then nalibre si Ian. ‘Yun talaga ‘yung pattern,” recalled head coach Chito Victolero of the final play.
“But of course, it’s up to Paul kung ano gagawin niya. So he found Ian on the easy basket. Yun naman ‘yan. Sa tagal nilang magkakilala, mata pa lang, nagkaka-usap na sila,” the former Coach of the Year furthered.
That tried and tested connection indeed saved Magnolia after coughing up an eight-point lead with over four minutes to spare.
Lee had six in a 10-2 spurt that gave the Hotshots an 80-72 lead with 4:19 to go, but Yousef Taha and Robbie Herndon — themselves former Purefoods players — connived for a 10-0 run to put the Aces up two with 1:09 on the clock.
Sangalang, though, sank a lay-up off a pick-and-roll set with Lee to tie the game up at 82-all with 54.3 seconds remaining. They had a chance to widen the lead moments later, but Rafi Reavis missed both of his free throws.
Alaska then tried to capitalize as Taha attacked the defense, but Rafi Reavis was there to poke the ball. And Rome Dela Rosa helped out, diving to secure the ball before calling for time with 20.6 seconds left to play.
That set up the thrilling finish. After getting the ball from Mark Barroca, Lee drove and immediately spotted an open Sangalang near the rim. The latter wasted no time as he quickly kissed it off the glass to win it.
“Sa start pa lang, sinabi ko this is not an easy game and we will sweat out. We have to be committed to this game because it’s hard. We had only one day of preparation, so we needed to adjust right away,” Victolero said.
“But no excuses ang sinabi ko sa mga players. Hindi pwedeng excuse ‘yung nagpalit ang kalaban. And through hard work, at least naka-recover kami.”
Lee finished with 16 points in the win. Dela Rosa made 12 points and six rebounds, while Barroca chimed in 10 markers and six assists.
According to league stats chief Fidel Mangonon III, this is Magnolia’s first 2-0 start in the Philippine Cup under Victolero, and since the 2013 Philippine Cup that was the start of their second season under Tim Cone.
Alaska’s loss, meanwhile, wasted the performance of Taha, who had a career-high 20 points alongside 10 rebounds in nearly 29 minutes.
Jeron Teng had 10 points and 12 boards, while Abu Tratter also had 10 markers in the loss that dropped the Aces to 1-1.
Magnolia will look to go 3-0 when it battles Ginebra (0-1) in another chapter of the Manila Clasico on Sunday, July 25, at 4:30 p.m., while Alaska tries to bounce back versus Phoenix (0-2) on Saturday, July 24, at 6:00 p.m.
Magnolia (84) – Sangalang 26, Lee 16, Dela Rosa 12, Barroca 10, Abueva 9, Dionisio 5, Jalalon 4, Corpuz 2, Reavis 0, J. Ahanmisi 0.
Alaska (82)– Taha 20, Teng 10, Tratter 10, Banal 9, Herndon 8, Casio 7, Adamos 6, DiGregorio 6, Brondial 3, M. Ahanmisi 3, Browne 0.
Quarterscores : 26-25, 41-47, 65-66, 84-82.