Magnolia Pambansang Manok coach Chito Victolero praised his team for setting the tempo in its Game 3 win over TNT in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
The Hotshots reduced the Tropang Giga’s lead in the best-of-seven title series to 2-1 following a 106-98 victory Sunday, Oct. 24 after being forced to play catch up in the previous two games.
They fell short both times after TNT raced to a 20-2 start in Game 1 and hitting 10 three-pointers in Game 2.
Victolero was glad that Magnolia was able to find ways to come back after losing a 7-0 lead at the start to trail 20-14 late in the opening period.
TNT even came back from an 11-point deficit in the second quarter to tie the game at 37-all, but Magnolia was able to get the lead and never looked back despite being threatened twice in the second half.
“I think maganda yung depensa namin compared to the last two games, but importante lang dito is we have the proper mindset,” Victolero said following the game at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
“Sabi ko nga sa kanila, we’re here in the finals because of our defense. So we just go back to basics, think about what happened before the playoffs — against Meralco and Rain or Shine, and yung mga elims games namin.”
He also got key contributions from his main players who were on-and-off in the first two games.
Paul Lee dropped 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting after scoring 12 in each of the two matches on a combined 8-of-24 shooting.
Ian Sangalang seems to have fully shrugged off back spasms that limited him to 10 minutes in Game 1 and was able to give the TNT frontcourt trouble with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocks.
One change that was made because of injury concerns translated into something positive for Magnolia, with Jio Jalalon being put in the starting lineup in lieu of Mark Barroca, who came off the bench due to a hamstring problem he sustained in Game 2.
Jalalon didn’t disappoint as he scored five of the Hotshots’ first seven points on his way to 11 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“Mark talked to me, because may nararamdaman nga siya, and then sabi niya, ‘Coach start mo muna si Jio,’” Victolero recalled. “Si Jio naman always ready yan e. Thankful ako dun sa bata because he started very strong on both ends of the floor.
“He stepped up for his Kuya Mark. I talked to Jio also before this game, very important yung mindset ni Jio kasi. I think nakuha naman niya yung gusto namin mangyari and hopefully magtuloy-tuloy yung game ni Jio.”
Calvin Abueva was placed back on the reserve role as Magnolia hoped to finally see the leading candidate for the Best Player of the Conference make an impact. Abueva looked like he had done just that, putting up 14 points and eight rebounds in just 19 minutes.
Magnolia also got solid work from veteran center Rafi Reavis (five points and nine rebounds), Rome Dela Rosa (nine points, three rebounds and one steal) and Jackson Corpuz (seven points, three rebounds and two steals) before getting tossed for a bad foul that left TNT’s Troy Rosario with a dislocated finger.
While Magnolia was able to contain some of TNT’s main players, it had no answer for rookie Mikey Williams who dropped 39 points.
It’s not sure if that was made by design or it was purely incidental, but the win may be the confidence-boost Magnolia needs to eventually neutralize the best player of the finals.