Chito Victolero regrets Magnolia played to SMB's pace in make-or-break stretch
“We slowed it down, which is yun ang gusto ng San Miguel,” says Chito Victolero. Clems Dela Cruz

ANTIPOLO City – Magnolia paid the price for failing to keep its discipline especially against a team as efficient as San Miguel Beer.

The Hotshots were forced to play the Beermen’s game down the stretch, leading to a late meltdown in a 77-76 loss to the reigning, three-time defending champion on Sunday night in a battle of PBA Philippine Cup leaders.

Magnolia led by as many as 16 points at 56-40 in the third period, but faded in the endgame when it began to slow down the tempo of the match played before an animated crowd of 8,000 at the Ynares Center here, much to the liking of the Beermen.

“We slowed it down, which is yun ang gusto ng San Miguel,” said Victolero following the Hotshots second loss in eighth outings for a tie with Alaska at second place.

“For the first three quarters we keep on running and yun ang nawala sa amin nung fourth quarter.”

Despite the breakdown, the Hotshots remained in the game until the final seconds. They were down by just a point, 74-73, when June Mar Fajardo grabbed the offensive rebound off two missed free throws by Chris Ross and was hacked by Ian Sangalang with 23 seconds left. The San Miguel big man canned both foul shots to stretch the Beermen’s lead to three.

Such mental mistake is definitely a no-no in a hotly-contested game, according to Victolero.

“Breaks of the game, kung hindi kami nag foul kay June Mar baka may chance kami,” he said. “Down by one lang kami nun. Kaya kailangan magkaroon kami ng mental toughness sa dulo.”

At the same time, he sees the need for the Hotshots to be more aggressive on offense since the team was only given seven free throws in all.

“Baka kailangan pa naming i-improve yung aggressiveness namin dahil seven free throws lang kami tonight,” he said.

The only consolation the Hotshots had was they managed to stay toe-to-toe with the defending champions all the way till the end.

“I’m very happy and proud of my players because we played very well hanggang doon sa dulo. And we expect San Miguel na hindi naman yan mag-give up agad. They are the defending champions, and we expect they will come back,” said the Magnolia coach

“Kailangan lang naming matuto, but we have a chance, and yun lang ang maganda doon nakita namin kung nasaan kami ngayon.”


Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos