Vengeful Magnolia holds closed-door practice on eve of Christmas Day game vs Ginebra
The Magnolia Hotshots in a final huddle after holding a closed-door practice on the eve of their Christmas-Day game against Ginebra. Karlo Sacamos

MAGNOLIA is so eager to get back at Ginebra in Christmas day games that it held practice behind closed doors on the eve of its awaited PBA Philippine Cup matchup against the Gin Kings at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

After losing to the Gin Kings two straight Christmases, a 92-89 OT loss in the quarterfinals two seasons back, before surrendering an 86-79 decision last year, the Hotshots are hoping the third time’s the charm by being extra focused in practice on the eve of their rivalry game.

“Gusto ko kasi medyo maganda yung mindset nila,” Hotshots coach Chito Victolero explained of the closed-door practice. “Hopefully naintindihan niyo, kasi marami ring distraction, kahapon, yung mga parties nila, may mga party din sa bahay.”

“So gusto ko lang yung one-and-a-half hour practice namin, naka-focus kami para at least makauwi na rin sila, makapahinga,” he added as he talked to media that were allowed entry after.

While they needed to be extra focused, the Hotshots are never lacking in motivation, especially in rekindling their rivalry against the Gin Kings.

“Hindi ko na sila kailangan i-motivate, kasi this is a Christmas Clasico,” Victolero said. “Gusto ko lang i-remind sa kanila yung proper mindset dahil it’s Christmas, maraming distraction. Madami ding mga celebration.

“Kailangan lang siguro naming mag-ready,” he added. “Kailangan yung mindset tama. Yung preparation naman namin maganda. Hopefully mag-translate sa game tomorrow.”

One thing going for the Hotshots is the Gin Kings are fielding an undermanned lineup without three injured players in versatile forwards Joe Devance  and Art dela Cruz and Sol Mercado.

Yet Victolero insisted the Gin Kings remain the favorites in the matchup that tips off at 5:15 p.m.

“Yung Ginebra, kahit naman may mga injured na players, malakas pa rin yan,” Victolero said. “Lahat ng nandun na players mabigat eh, especially with the twin towers of Greg and Japeth, then their guards, the combination of Scottie and LA. Medyo talagang mahirap sa matchup.”

“But if we play as a team on both ends, magawa namin yung scheme namin, maganda para sa amin,” he added.

And if they prevail, that would make Victolero’s Christmas work worthwhile.

“Okay lang (walang bakasyon), trabaho ‘to eh. Pare-parehas naman kami na hindi naka-bakasyon eh,” Victolero said. “Ang magandang reward lang dito kung mananalo kami.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos