PBA Commissioner’s Cup

Lee bucks shooting woes as Magnolia closes in on ending finals drought

Delfin Dioquino

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Lee bucks shooting woes as Magnolia closes in on ending finals drought

CLUTCH. Paul Lee in action for the Magnolia Hotshots in the 2023-24 PBA Commissioner's Cup.

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Paul Lee bails Magnolia out with a clutch shot as the Hotshots move on the verge of their first PBA finals appearance since the 2021 Philippine Cup

MANILA, Philippines – You just can’t count Paul Lee out even when his shots are not falling.

Lee bucked his shooting woes and bailed Magnolia out in an 82-78 win over Phoenix that allowed the Hotshots to gain a 2-0 lead in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, January 26.

Making just one of his first eight shots, Lee connected from way beyond the arc for an 81-76 lead with a minute left as Magnolia moved on the verge of its first finals appearance since the 2021 Philippine Cup.

“That was the only open shot that I took the whole game,” said Lee in Filipino. “They were fronting me the entire time. There was no time left so I needed to shoot it. Luckily, it went in.”

Lee finished with just 6 points in nearly 28 minutes of action, but his deep three-pointer spelled the difference as it gave the Hotshots enough separation to fend off the gritty Fuel Masters.

Phoenix grabbed a 76-71 lead behind 6 straight points from Jason Perkins and import Johnathan Williams before Magnolia went on a 10-0 rally capped by that booming Lee trey.

“All I need is an open look and I just need to be ready because you’ll never know when that kind of opportunity will come,” said Lee.

Hotshots import Tyler Bey had no doubts when Lee released the ball.

“I knew it was going in. That’s just Paul. You already know when he gets a shot, he’s going to take it and he’s going to make it. That’s why I love him,” said Bey.

Bey showed the way in the win with 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks, including a pair of crucial plays down the stretch as Magnolia beat the Fuel Masters for the ninth straight time dating back to the 2021 season.

Hounded by a double team, Bey found big man James Laput underneath the basket for a three-point play that knotted the score at 76-76 then scored the go-ahead basket on the next possession before Lee drained the dagger.

Jio Jalalon backstopped Bey with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists, Rome dela Rosa put up 9 points, while Calvin Abueva tallied 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks.

Mark Barroca chimed in 8 points and 5 assists in the win.

Williams paced Phoenix with 27 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks, while Perkins posted 17 points and 13 rebounds.

The Hotshots will try to wrap up the best-of-five semifinals on Sunday, January 28, at the same venue, but Lee knows it is easier said than done.

“It’s hard to face a team that has its back against the well. We have to be prepared,” said Lee.

The Scores

Magnolia 82 – Bey 25, Jalalon 17, Dela Rosa 9, Abueva 8, Barroca 8, Laput 7, Lee 6, Reavis 2, Sangalang 0, Dionisio 0, Mendoza 0.

Phoenix 78 – Williams 27, Perkins 17, Tuffin 10, Mocon 7, Jazul 6, Tio 5, Soyud 3, Rivero 2, Manganti 1, Lalata 0, Garcia 0, Alejandro 0, Daves 0, Verano 0, Camacho 0.

Quarters: 30-14, 43-34, 62-60, 82-78.

– 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.