PBA Commissioner’s Cup

Rakocevic bucks injury as Magnolia outlasts undermanned Phoenix to reach semis

Delfin Dioquino
Rakocevic bucks injury as Magnolia outlasts undermanned Phoenix to reach semis

NEXT ROUND. Nick Rakocevic and Magnolia utilize the win-once bonus they gained as the second seed.

Nick Rakocevic of the Magnolia Hotshots – 2022 PBA Commissioner's Cup

Nick Rakocevic returns from a bad fall and delivers down the stretch as Magnolia advances to the semifinals for the fourth straight conference

MANILA, Philippines – Nick Rakocevic shook off an injury and willed Magnolia to the semifinals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup after providing a big lift in their 102-95 win over Phoenix at the PhilSports Arena on Friday, December 9.

Despite hurting his left ankle, Rakocevic delivered down the stretch and churned out 18 points, 13 rebounds, 5 steals, and 4 blocks as the twice-to-beat Hotshots advanced to the semifinals for the fourth straight conference.

The Serbian import left the court after a bad fall early in the third quarter but returned with four minutes left in the period and knocked down key baskets to help Magnolia erase a 62-67 deficit and enter the final frame up 76-74.

He then scored 4 straight points in an 8-0 blitz that broke an 86-86 tie in the fourth quarter as the Hotshots outlasted the gritty Fuel Masters, who fought tooth and nail even without five players due to health and safety protocols.

Phoenix missed RJ Jazul, RR Garcia, Larry Muyang, Chris Lalata, and Simon Camacho.

The seventh seed Fuel Masters, though, refused to go away and even got within 5 points, 95-100, off a Kaleb Wesson triple with under a minute remaining.

But Calvin Abueva came up with the finishing touches for Magnolia and scored their last 6 points, including the win-sealing free throws with 36 ticks left, as the Hotshots utilized the win-once bonus they gained as the second seed.

Thriving off the bench, Abueva supplied a game-high 19 points to go with 5 rebounds and 3 steals, Mark Barroca posted 16 points and 5 assists, while Paul Lee netted 15 points and 3 assists.

Adrian Wong scored 11 points and Jio Jalalon contributed 8 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals as Magnolia now wait for its semifinal foe between Barangay Ginebra and NorthPort.

Wesson fell a dime short of a triple-double and chalked up 16 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, and 4 blocks in the loss the booted Phoenix out of the playoffs.

Although they failed to make it past the quarterfinals for the fourth straight tournament, the Fuel Masters still somehow overachieved by reaching the playoffs in their first conference without former star Matthew Wright, who took his talent to the Japan B. League.

Phoenix also lost ace forward Jason Perkins in the middle of the tournament but managed to win six games, including five straight, to advance to the knockout round.

Rookie Encho Serrano also totaled 16 points for the Fuel Masters, while Javee Mocon turned in 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals.

The Scores

Magnolia 102 – Abueva 19, Rakocevic 18, Barroca 16, Lee 15, Wong 11, Jalalon 8, Sangalang 6, Dionisio 4, Dela Rosa 3, Corpuz 2, Ahanmisi 0.

Phoenix 95 – Tio 18, Serrano 16, Wesson 16, Mocon 12, Perkins 12, Anthony 6, Manganti 5, Pascual 4, Rios 4, Lojera 2, Adamos 0.

Quarters: 28-26, 50-46, 76-74, 102-95.

– Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.