MANILA, Philippines – Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero tipped his hat to Meralco, saying the Bolts “deserved to win” after the Hotshots blew their chances to stay alive in the PBA Governors’ Cup playoffs.
On the verge of forcing a rubber match against twice-to-beat Meralco, Magnolia wasted a seven-point lead late in regulation and absorbed a heartbreaking 113-107 overtime loss on Wednesday, March 22, for an early vacation.
The loss marked the only time the Hotshots failed to make it past the quarterfinals this season after reaching the semifinals in the first two conferences.
“I think Meralco deserved to win because they don’t give up, they don’t quit,” said Victolero.
“We had the chance to win. The lesson is it’s not yet over until it’s over. I reminded them that we have to close the game, we have to finish stronger.”
Up by as big as 96-89 in the fourth quarter, Magnolia nearly put the nail in the coffin when Paul Lee drained a triple after KJ McDaniels’ three-point play pulled the Bolts within 92-96 with a minute left.
But the referees ruled out the trey as they called an offensive foul on Mark Barroca, who committed a moving screen to free up Lee.
Meralco bridged the gap to 94-96 off a Chris Banchero bucket, and thanks to a Hotshots turnover courtesy of import Antonio Hester, it paved the way for an extra period behind a buzzer-beating jumper from Aaron Black.
It all went downhill for Magnolia in overtime, where Bolts star Chris Newsome dropped 10 of his career-high 33 points as he nearly matched the Hotshots’ 11 points in the period.
“We have to be sharp and smart down the stretch,” said Victolero.
“If you face an elite team like Meralco, which is what will happen if you make it to the end… you have to make sure you’re ready to play for 48 minutes and you have to minimize the breakdowns.”
Victolero said Magnolia will take a three-week break to allow the entire team to heal from their physical and emotional wounds before the Hotshots plot their course of action for next season.
“We had at least a so-so season – a good but not great season,” said Victolero. “We didn’t miss the playoffs, but what we’re talking about here is going to the finals.”
“Hopefully, we get at least one next season.” – Rappler.com
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