MAGNOLIA got back on track in the race for a quarterfinal berth on Wednesday night after beating NorthPort, 103-90, in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots held the Batang Pier without a field goal in the final six minutes of the game to complete a fiery comeback from as much as an 11-point second-half deficit.
By atoning for a loss to rival Ginebra on Sunday, the Hotshots joined Alaska and NLEX in joint sixth place as the race for quarterfinal berths continued to heat up.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero said the team focused on its defense in the second half after allowing 59 points against NorthPort in the first 24 minutes.
“It’s all about our defense in the second half,” Victolero said. “We allowed them to score 59 points in the first half. Sa conference ngayon, ‘yun ‘yung pinaka-worse namin sa first half. Third quarter na namin ‘yun.”
“I told them in the locker room, if we don’t play defense in the second half, we will lose this game,” Victolero added.
The Hotshots took their coach's words to heart.
A 16-3 run that broke an 87-87 tie allowed the Hotshots to revive their playoff hopes while sending the Batang Pier reeling to a sixth consecutive loss after opening the season with two wins.
Paul Lee had 24 points built around six three-pointers and was at his best in the game-clinching finishing kick. Ian Sangalang added 20 points while Rodney Brondial contributed 14.
Sean Anthony finished with 22 points while Mo Tautuaa had 19 points but couldn't end the NorthPort free fall.
Magnolia 103 – Lee 24, Sangalang 20, Brondial 14, Melton 11, Jalalon 11, Barroca 11, Reavis 5, Dela Rosa 5, Herndon 2, Pascual 0.
NorthPort 90 – Anthony 22, Tautuaa 19, Pringle 15, Grey 14, Lanete 8, Guinto 4, Bolick 3, Elorde 3, Taha 2, Sollano 0, Gabayni 0.
Quarters: 33-25; 53-59; 76-82; 103-90.