By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
The Magnolia Pambasang Manok Hotshots were relieved to finally break through with a win in the ongoing best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup finals after taking Game Three, 106-98, over the TnT Tropang Giga on Sunday, thanks they said to adjustments they made particularly on the defensive end.
Following losses in the first two matches, the Hotshots were in desperate need of a win lest they kiss their title hopes in the season-opening Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) tournament goodbye.
And while they still had to dig deeper against a no-quit Tropang Giga crew in Game Three, they nonetheless positioned themselves better to compete on a firmer footing than the previous outings.
“I think we played defense better than we did in the first two games. The defensive mindset is very important. It brought us where we are now. And we all agreed that we have to play better defense to win. And we did,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero after their win.
Magnolia finally got the good opening half in Game Three that eluded it early in the series.
Led by the trio of Paul Lee, Calvin Abueva and Jio Jalalon, the Hotshots took the first quarter, 26-20, and kept the Tropang Giga at bay, 52-46, at the break.
The Hotshots continued to hum to start the third quarter.
They outscored TnT, 23-15, in the first seven minutes to stretch their lead to 14 points, 75-61.
But the Tropang Giga just showed much resolve, even after Troy Rosario went down with a dislocated left pinkie following a hard fall, narrowing their deficit to just five points, 82-77, heading into the final quarter.
Rattled at the end of the previous quarter, Magnolia reestablished control at the start of the payoff canto, extending its lead to 18 points, 95-77, with 7:49 to go in the match.
The Tropang Giga charged back, led by the hot-shooting of rookie Mikey Williams, trimming the Magnolia lead to just three points, 98-95, with 1:11 left.
However, Magnolia scored four straight points after to put the game out of reach.
“We’re happy for the win but we’re taking it a game at a time. We’ve been in this situation before. We’ve experienced it and looking forward to coming back on Wednesday prepared and ready to play again,” said Mr. Victolero.
Magnolia tries to level the series in Game Four set for Wednesday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.