SAN Miguel's defense was so focused on stopping Magnolia's usual suspects in Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, and Jio Jalalon that Justin Melton managed to slip through the seams, time and again.
The Fil-Am high-flyer came off the bench and delivered 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists as the Hotshots stole Game One of the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, 99-94, on Wednesday night.
Melton attributed his quality minutes to the confidence he gets from Magnolia's leaders, especially from Lee.
"They're the ones who tell me to keep on shooting," he said after going 3-of-7 from three-point distance. "Paul says that every time I touch the ball, I should shoot it. And that's what I did and tonight, they were falling."
Not only did the Hotshots draw first blood in the best-of-seven series, but it also reaffirmed their belief that they can be the one to end the Beermen's dynastic run in the all-Filipino conference.
Melton feels this team is different from the Magnolia side which finished runner-up to the Beermen last season.
"The experience from last year was big for us. We did take Game One last year and they ended up winning the series," he said. "Now, we're more mature, a little bit more focused, and we're concentrating not on the W but winning each possession."
That experience, to Melton, should come in handy as the Hotshots brace for a stronger fightback for the Beermen in Game Two on Friday.
"Of course, they're gonna come back strong, but we got to be able to weather the storm and be able to hit back at the same time," he said. "Our motto has always been defense and that's where it will stay. That's our strength."