MAGNOLIA may have fallen short of making it back to the PBA Philippine Cup finals, but coach Chito Victolero still believes the Hotshots have a solid core capable of winning back the conference considered as the league’s crown jewel.
A few days after the Hotshots were booted out of contention by defending champion TNT Tropang Giga, Victolero said the team still has what it takes to keep in step with the league giants.
The loss to the Tropang Giga in the best-of-seven semis series is another experience that should toughen the team.
“At least yung chemistry namin lalong tumibay, lalong gumanda. At least when we go to battle, we’re sharper in terms of chemistry and rotation.”
The starting unit of Mark Barroca, Paul Lee, Rome dela Rosa, Calvin Abueva, and Ian Sangalang remains a formidable one, but Magnolia’s support cast has gotten even deeper this season with Adrian Wong and big man James Laput beginning to get solid minutes off the bench alongside Jio Jalalon, Aris Dionisio, Jackson Corpuz, and Rafi Reavis.
“Yung group na ito halos magkakasama ito for one-and-a-half conference pa lang kasi we acquired James and AD (Wong) middle of the season na (last year),” said Victolero.
“Si Calvin naman is only in his third conference with us, and si Aris Dionisio nagkakaroon na siya ng magandang exposure at magandang rotation sa amin.”
Until their loss to TNT, Magnolia was actually in the Philippine Cup finals three times in its last four editions.
The Hotshots were even close to toppling the mighty San Miguel Beermen during the 2019 all-Filipino title series, losing the deciding Game Seven by a hairline, 72-71, on Alex Cabagnot’s clutch go-ahead basket in the dying seconds.
“Of course, we expected a deep playoff run this conference, but nangyayari talaga yan, e,” said Victolero whose team lost in last year’s finals against the Tropang Giga.
“We’re sad, medyo frustrated ng kaunti, but we expect na makakarating ulit kami dun,” added the Magnolia coach. “Ito sana yung fourth time namin (sa finals) in five years, but naging three times lang in five years.”
“But we’re thankful and blessed na rin na we’re (always) in the Top 4. Bounce back na lang kami next conference.”
Victolero has given the entire team a two-and-a-half-week break, and will start practicing for the Commissioner’s Cup in the first week of September.
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