Coach Chito Victolero is pleased that the gamble to insert the foul-prone Calvin Abueva paid dividends for Magnolia Pambansang Manok after winning Game 1 of the PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series over Meralco.
Victolero decided to put Abueva back on the court while nursing five personal fouls with 10:04 left in the fourth quarter and the Hotshots staring at a 69-63 deficit following a three by Allein Maliksi.
The move did work in Magnolia’s favor as a free throw and a three by Abueva triggered a 10-0 run that gave the Hotshots the lead for good
And for good measure, the frontrunner for the Best Player of the Conference award converted a dunk off a steal from Anjo Caram and scored a basket entering the final two minutes for scores of 82-72 and 85-74.
“It’s hard for us because yung rotation ko medyo naapektuhan because na-foul trouble nga si Calvin,” Victolero said following the match held Sunday, Oct. 3 at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
“But the way Calvin tumingin sa akin nung fourth quarter, gustong gusto niya maglaro. Sabi ko bahala na, basta ingatan lang niya. At least malaking tulong, nakakuha siya ng mga rebounds, nakakuha kami ng energy sa kanya sa opensa tsaka sa depensa. Iba rin talaga kapag andun si Calvin,” he added.
Abueva finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and two assists despite playing just 20 minutes due to his foul-prone ways.
Victolero, however, said that some players stepped up while Abueva was saddled with fouls, namely Ian Sangalang who also had a hand in Magnolia’s fourth quarter surge on his way to 18 points and eight rebounds and even some of his second unit like Rome dela Cruz, Jackson Corpuz and Aris Dionisio.
“We stayed together and we worked hard together on defense. At least nakuha namin yung Game 1,” he said. “It’s only the start of the series. Kita niyo naman kung gaano kapisikal, kung gaano ka-emotional. But good thing lang nakuha namin yung Game 1.”
Emotions ran high late in the match when Victolero and Meralco center Raymond Almazan were slapped with technical fouls following a heated exchange with 1:48 left in the match.
Maliksi also got in a similar exchange with someone from the Hotshots bench as the game ended before cooler heads prevailed.
Victolero played down his verbal tussle with Almazan, saying that the tensions can only be attributed to the playoff atmosphere which could probably be the case for the rest of the series.
“Sasabihin naman talaga natin na emotional talaga yung game because it’s a semifinal series. Kailangan lang namin macontrol yung emotions namin,” said Victolero.