Michael Angelo S. Murillo,
CURRENTLY holding a commanding 3-1 lead in their best-of seven Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup semifinal series, the Magnolia Pambansang Manok Hotshots seek to close out the Meralco Bolts at the first instance when they collide anew for Game Five on Wednesday.
The Hotshots moved on the cusp of barging into the finals of the Philippine Basketball Association All-Filipino tournament by taking Game Four, 81-69, in another grind-it-out encounter on Sunday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University (DHVSU) Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Magnolia turned to its defense to make it even tougher for already-undermanned Meralco, never allowing the Bolts to get their game going the way they wanted to right from the start.
Mark Barroca paced the steady and balanced attack of the Hotshots, finishing with 17 points and six assists en route to winning player of the game honors.
Now in a solid position to end the series, the Hotshots intend to do so immediately and not give Meralco any hopes of coming back.
“We have a great advantage right now and we should not give it away. We’ll take it (Game Five) whatever it takes,” Mr. Barroca said in Filipino in the press conference following their Game Four win.
They, however, admit that it is not going to be easy as Meralco is expected to put up a solid fight to keep their tournament hopes alive.
“Closing a series is tough. So we have to triple our efforts than the one we showed today to complete our goal,” said Mr. Barroca.
“We need to recharge mentally and physically for the next game. Meralco will show more effort that is for sure,” Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, for his part, said.
In the pivotal Game Four win, Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang also stepped up big, finishing with double-doubles. Mr. Abueva had 17 points and 12 rebounds while Mr. Sangalang had 17 and 11.
Jio Jalalon was the other Hotshots in double-digits in scoring with 10 points.
Veteran Reynel Hugnatan, meanwhile, led the Game Four thrust of the Bolts with 21 points and nine rebounds. Cliff Hodge and Chris Newsome scored 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Meralco played sans big man Raymond Almazan, who injured his ankle previously.
If they succeed in fashioning out a closeout, the Hotshots return to the PBA finals for the first time since 2019, where they lost to the San Miguel Beermen in the Philippine Cup Finals in seven games.
Magnolia was last PBA champion in 2018 in the Governors’ Cup.