GAME 4 of the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals between NLEX and Magnolia Pambansang Manok all boiled down at the start of the second half.
Coach Chito Victolero pointed out to the Hotshots’ flat start in the third period as the turning point of their 91-79 loss to the Road Warriors Friday night that tied their best-of-seven series at two-games apiece.
NLEX was only clinging to a 41-39 lead at the half when it suddenly exploded to begin the second half, scoring 14 straight unanswered points anchored on veteran big man JR Quinahan that suddenly gave the team a huge 16-point advantage.
The Hotshots played catch-up from there as the Road Warriors coasted to the win and reduced their series to a best-of-three affair.
“Bad start kami nung third,” admitted Victolero outside the Magnolia dugout at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I think were outplayed and outhustled by NLEX. I think mas gusto nilang manalo ngayon.”
Ironically, coming out strong to open the second half was among the chief reminders of Victolero at the break.
“Before kami lumabas ng dugout, yun ang reminder ko sa mga bata na we need to start strong in the third. If we want to win this game andiyan sa third quarter yung result kung ano yung gusto nating mangyari.”
It didn’t go Magnolia’s way as Quinahan had 11 of his 14 points in the quarter, while Kevin Alas and Larry Fonacier combined for 12 points on that same stretch.
Rookie Kiefer Ravena then finished off the job in the payoff period, firing 11 points to help the Road Warriors enjoy their biggest lead at 82-65. The no.2 overall pick in last year’s draft finished with a game-high 20 points.
Also of significance for the Hotshots is the contributions of their bench, which was outscored by the Road Warriors, 68-30.
“Yung bench namin need na mag step-up pa,” stressed Victolero. “Medyo humahaba na yung series, kaya yung bench kahit papaano dapat nakaka-contribute.”
Victolero added the Hotshots couldn’t afford to commit these same mental mistakes again the rest of the series, starting with Sunday’s Game 5 at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
“It’s down to a best-of-three series. We need to play together and stay together,” said the Magnolia mentor. “We experienced it last season. If it goes to a best-of-seven ok yun. Kumbaga, kung Game 7, Game 7. But one game at a time muna starting on Sunday."