MAGNOLIA Pambansang Manok will have to approach the rest of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals the old-fashioned way: One game at a time.
The Hotshots were pushed to the wall by the mighty San Miguel Beermen following an 84-80 loss on Wednesday night that left them trailing in the best-of-seven series, 3-1.
They now must sweep the remaining three games to pull off a gigantic upset that only two teams had managed to accomplish in the 43-year history of the league.
But it can be done, according to coach Chito Victolero, though the Hotshots have to do it slowly but surely starting with Friday’s Game 5 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“We’ll just try to live another day, we’ll just try to find ways to win on Friday,” said Victolero in his post-game talk inside the Smart Araneta Coliseum press room.
“Yung 3-1 (down) medyo mabigat yan, pero I’m still positive. Walang imposible.”
Only Barangay Ginebra in 1991 and San Miguel in 20016 managed to come back from such a deficit in the finals to win the championship all the way. The Beermen even did it by rallying from as much as 0-3 down in the series.
What’s good about Magnolia’s situation was it able to force the reigning three-time champion to play a grind-it-out game, which Victolero said favored the Hotshots.
“It was our best game in the series. Even if nanalo kami sa Game One, it was not our game,” he said.
“It’s a defensive game and that’s our game,” added Victolero, noting how the team held the Beermen to just within 80 points. “We cannot dominate San Miguel because of their firepower, so our plan was just to stay close, stay in the game for 48 minutes for us to have a chance. Yun ang goal namin.”
The Hotshots did have a shot at pulling off another upset in the endgame, but Aldrich Ramos missed a corner jumper and Mark Barroca lost the handle on the ball that led to two free throws by Arwind Santos that sealed the deal for the Beermen.
Victolero also lamented Magnolia was awarded just seven free throws for the entire game compared to the 20 of the Beermen.
“Yun lang breaks of the game ang hindi mapunta sa amin,” he said. “Yun ang problema namin hindi kami maka-adjust sa call. We had a hard time playing defense, lagi kaming penalty for every quarter. We’ll just try to review the tape and asked the technical officials.”
But the Magnolia coach is not about to make excuse about officiating. Survival is first and foremost in his mind.
“To win a championship, they need four wins so kailangan pa rin nilang manalo sa Friday. Yun lang ang positive doon. Hindi pa tapos ang series,” he stressed.