It seemed like Magnolia has finally put its horrendous 0-3 start behind and new import Antonio Hester is proving to be the team’s missing piece.
On Sunday, Feb. 12, Hester scattered a near triple-double of 28 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists as the Hotshots turned what was expected to be a nip-and-tuck Manila Clasico affair into a complete demolition with a 118-88 victory over rival Barangay Ginebra Kings.
And the Magnolia import, who took the place of original choice Eric McCree, did it in an impressive fashion, outplaying Ginebra resident reinforcement Justin Brownlee who only had 22 points on 5-of-11 shooting although he still had nine assists and seven rebounds.
Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero pointed out how Hester completely changed the pace for the Hotshots both offensively and defensively.
“Hester is a big factor for us. He changed the pace and tempo of our game that's why without Ian (Sangalang), now we have at least a go-to-guy in the post and it creates a lot of opportunities for our small guys,” said Victolero.
The Hotshots, who have been known as a team that thrives behind the performances of their guards, got solid contributions from Paul Lee, Jio Jalalon and Mark Barroca, seemingly benefitting to the defense Hester is attracting inside the paint.
Barroca finished with 21 points while Lee added 18. Calvin Abueva also blended well with Hester as a weak side option to finish with 18 points as well.
“We really have to change yung sistema namin kasi without Ian we really had a hard time dun sa tinatakbo namin. Now with an import in Hester, I think nakukuha namin yung rhythm namin on both ends eh,” said Victolero.
“We limited Ginebra under 90 points, that's the good sign, our defensive identity bumabalik na rin,” he added.