MAGNOLIA fights through fatigue as it locks horns against San Miguel Beer on Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo in a battle between the top two teams and a potential preview of the finals of the PBA Philippine Cup.
The weary Hotshots are playing their second game in three days after holding off Blackwater, 78-72, last Friday that enabled them to stretch their win streak to five games and win their sixth overall in seven games to supplant the Beermen (5-1) atop the 12-team standings.
Now, the pacesetting Hotshots take the court at 6:45 p.m. against the defending champion Beermen, who are eager to bounce back from their first loss of the conference, a 100-96 decision at the hands of Ginebra last Sunday.
“Walang pahinga pahinga,” Marc Pingris said after their win over the Elite. “Alam naman natin na defending champion yan. Galing pa sila sa talo, ‘di ba? So bibigay lang namin yung best namin, yun ang sabi ni coach. Championship. Game One yan.”
“Ang sa akin, kumbaga ibibigay namin yung best namin, kasi parang nasa finals na rin kami kasi kaharap namin yung defending champion eh,” he added. “Wala ng ititira pa, bigay na lahat. Hundred percent.”
Hotshots coach Chito Victolero knows it’s achievable, citing that the Gin Kings managed to do it while also in the back end of back-to-back games last week against the Beermen.
“Nagawa ng Ginebra, so that’s our motivation,” Victolero said. “Back-to-back din si Ginebra. Kailangan lang namin ng proper mindset and wag lang isipin na pagod kami.”
Naturally, the Hotshots will put their defensive focus on four-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, who is coming off a dominant performance against Ginebra with 33 points on 12-of-16 shooting, 11 rebounds, four assists, four blocks, and one steal, against six turnovers in almost 40 minutes that went to waste.
“Paghahandaan naman talaga namin si June Mar,” Pingris said. “For me, siya yung pinaka-number one na magaling sa PBA ngayon. Walang doubt ako dun na….fifty percent nanggagaling sa kanila yung panalo dahil kay June Mar.”
Alaska, who is also on a roll like Magnolia, having likewise won their last five games after a 0-2 start, takes on GlobalPort (3-3) in the curtain-raiser at 4:30 p.m.