MAGNOLIA turned to its defense without its deadliest offensive player as it added to the frustrations of Blackwater with a 78-72 win to sustain their momentum in the PBA Philippine Cup on Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Missing the services of injured star guard Paul Lee, the Hotshots leaned on a balanced scoring attack, while focusing more on the defensive end to grind out their fifth straight win and sixth in seven games to claim the provisional lead in the standings.
Aldrech Ramos and Mark Barroca showed the way with 14 points apiece, while Ian Sangalang hit the go-ahead jumphook for the Hotshots that handed the Elite their fourth straight loss and fifth in seven games.
“We knew Blackwater was going to come out very hard this game, and ang worry ko is maging complacent kami,” Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said. “But I just tried to motivate the players to go hard and match their intensity.”
The Hotshots did match the Elite’s energy as they established an early lead that grew to 18 points, 52-34, early in the third quarter, but Victolero’s fear also came to reality as they allowed Blackwater to mount on a rally from then on.
Trailing, 72-64, halfway through the payoff period, the Elite scored eight unanswered points to knot the count after a basket by Mac Belo with a little over a minute left, before the Hotshots retaliated with six straight points, sparked by a timeout play that saw Sangalang score on a jumphook off a Marc Pingris dish, to end the game.
The result spoiled a solid showing from Belo, who tied his career-high with 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting, along with six boards, six steals, one assist, and one block in less than 26 minutes off the bench.
The standout sophomore combo forward, though, committed a crucial backing violation that did the Elite in at the crunchtime.
The Hotshots prevented former player Allein Maliksi from haunting them as the veteran gunner registered 17 points, built around three treys, four boards, and one block.
MAGNOLIA 78 — Barroca 14, Ramos 14, Melton 8, Sangalang 8, Pascual 7, Dela Rosa 6, Jalalon 6, Simon 6, Pingris 4, Herndon 3, Reavis 2, Brondial 0, Gamalinda 0
BLACKWATER 72 — Belo 25, Maliksi 17, Cortez 8, Erram 6, Jose 4, Pinto 3, DiGregorio 2, Marcelo 2, Sena 2, Sumang 2, Palma 1, Cruz 0, Javier 0
Quarterscores: 23-13, 42-29, 61-54, 78-72