PBA Commissioner’s Cup

Sleepless nights pay off for Magnolia, but nightmare San Miguel matchup awaits in finals

Delfin Dioquino

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Sleepless nights pay off for Magnolia, but nightmare San Miguel matchup awaits in finals

VETERAN MOVES. Mark Barroca in action for the Magnolia Hotshots in the 2023-24 PBA Commissioner's Cup.

PBA Images

Magnolia sets up a date with San Miguel for the PBA Commissioner's Cup crown after hurdling stubborn Phoenix in the semifinals

MANILA, Philippines – Chito Victolero and Magnolia earned the right for a good night’s rest.

The Hotshots get to celebrate at least for one night as they claimed their place in the finals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup after hurdling stubborn Phoenix with an 89-79 win at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday, January 31.

With import Tyler Bey and veteran guard Mark Barroca taking turns, Magnolia wrapped up the best-of-five semifinals in four games and set up a championship duel with San Miguel that starts on Friday, February 2, at the same venue.

Although the series did not go the distance, Victolero admitted having a hard time going up against the Fuel Masters.

“It was a battle. There were sleepless nights. We’re just not used to Phoenix being in the final four but they gave us a good fight,” said Victolero in Filipino.

Bey delivered a 20-point, 20-rebound double-double on top of 4 assists and 2 steals, while Barroca put up 21 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds as they both hit timely buckets in the fourth quarter to keep Phoenix at bay.

The Fuel Masters got buried by as deep as 21 points, 74-53, early in the final salvo before they went on a 15-4 run capped by back-to-back Sean Manganti triples to inch within 10 points with under five minutes left.

But Bey and Barroca answered with a dunk and a three-pointer in succession for a commanding 83-68 lead as the Hotshots reached the finals for the first time since the 2021 Philippine Cup.

“We dream of another journey to the finals. We prepared hard for this conference,” said Victolero, whose squad went unbeaten in the PBA On Tour exhibition series and finished the elimination round as the No. 1 seed with a 9-2 card.

Ian Sangalang supplied 12 points in the win, Aris Dionisio and Rome dela Rosa added 8 and 7 points, respectively, while Paul Lee chimed in 6 points and 6 assists.

Sleepless nights, though, are far from over for Magnolia as it faces a nightmare of a matchup in the form of the Beermen, who are riding on a blazing nine-game winning streak going into the best-of-seven finale.

Its star-studded local cast bolstered by highly talented import Bennie Boatwright, San Miguel is coming off an unprecedented semifinal sweep of Barangay Ginebra.

“There will be no sleep for us again. We’ll try to think what we need to do against this powerhouse team,” said Victolero.

Import Johnathan Williams posted 17 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 steals for Phoenix, which failed to weave the same magic of its Game 3 win where it fought back from a 21-point deficit to stay alive.

The Fuel Masters came oh-so close a couple of times, especially when they trimmed a 43-26 deficit to just 53-51 midway through the third quarter.

Bey, though, answered with an and-one play on the next possession, sparking a 15-0 blast that restored order for the Hotshots.

RR Garcia paced all Phoenix locals with 15 points, RJ Jazul had 11 points, and Manganti netted 10 points.

The Scores

Magnolia 89 – Barroca 21, Bey 20, Sangalang 12, Dionisio 8, Dela Rosa 7, Lee 6, Tratter 6, Jalalon 5, Laput 4, Reavis 0, Ahanmisi 0, Abueva 0.

Phoenix 79 – Williams 17, Garcia 15, Jazul 11, Manganti 10, Perkins 6, Alejandro 5, Tio 5, Muyang 4, Tuffin 3, Rivero 3, Soyud 0, Mocon 0, Verano 0, Camacho 0.

Quarters: 29-16, 49-38, 70-53, 89-79.

– 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.