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MANILA, Philippines – The emergence of Joseph Eriobu proved to be a silver lining even as Magnolia dropped the opener of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals against San Miguel.
Eriobu powered the Hotshots’ 4th-quarter comeback from a 20-point hole as they gave the Beermen a major scare before absorbing a 103-95 loss on Friday, February 2.
Sidelined for most of the playoffs, the former PBA 3×3 stalwart made the most out of his finals debut, putting up 7 points and 2 rebounds in just 8 minutes of action.
“When our numbers are called, we have to be ready and we have to execute what coach wants us to do,” said Eriobu, who signed a one-season contract with Magnolia after starring for Purefoods in the PBA 3×3, in Filipino.
“I’m not nervous at all. The only thing that goes through my mind is when coach puts me in, I’m ready.”
When coach Chito Victolero fielded in Eriobu along with other third stringers Jed Mendoza and Russel Escoto as the Hotshots trailed by as big as 94-74 in the 4th quarter, it felt like a move to simply rest his rotation players.
After all, Magnolia entered the finals with hardly any rest just two days after disposing of Phoenix in the semifinals.
But Eriobu played with no intentions of making it easy for San Miguel.
Five straight Eriobu points allowed his team to inch within single digits, 94-85, and his last bucket further trimmed their deficit to 6 points, 100-94, with under 1:30 minutes remaining.
Although the Beermen held on to draw first blood in the best-of-seven series, Eriobu is proud that the Hotshots made the Beermen sweat for the win.
“Our goal was to come back, make the game close, and try to win the game. We came up short but we made them feel that we’re here to fight,” said Eriobu.
“We showed San Miguel that we will not back down no matter how big their lead is.”
Eriobu and Magnolia hope to tie the series up in Game 2 on Sunday, February 4, at the Mall of Asia Arena. – Rappler.com