MANILA, Philippines – If there are still any doubts why Magnolia ended the PBA Governors’ Cup eliminations as the top seed, its 39-point mauling of Phoenix should be enough validation.
The twice-to-beat Hotshots earned their semifinal berth with ease after humiliating the Fuel Masters from start to finish en route to a 127-88 beating at the Araneta Coliseum on Friday, March 18.
Paul Lee led eight players in double figures with 25 points as Magnolia enjoyed a lead as big as 45 points in eliminating No. 8 Phoenix and setting up a best-of-five semifinals duel with Meralco.
Setting the tone in the blowout, Lee caught fire with 20 points in the first half to key the Hotshots to a sizable 66-46 advantage and they never looked back by outscoring the Fuel Masters 61-42 in the last two quarters.
Mark Barroca churned out 18 points and 7 assists to backstop Lee, Jio Jalalon produced 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals, while import Mike Harris chalked up 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks.
Returning from a month-long absence caused by a calf injury, Calvin Abueva made his presence felt for Magnolia with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Phoenix got off to a 9-3 start but the Hotshots answered with a 25-4 run laced with 5 triples from Lee, Harris, Barroca, Rome dela Rosa, and Adrian Wong for a 28-13 advantage.
That lead then grew to as many as 23 points in the second quarter as Lee poured in 12 points in the period, with 9 coming from three-point land.
It did not help the Fuel Masters’ cause that star guard Matthew Wright fouled out with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Phoenix trailed by 24 points, 62-86, when Wright exited the game for good, but that lead nearly doubled at 120-75 in the fourth quarter off an Ian Sangalang layup with 5:30 minutes left.
Sangalang and Wong netted 11 points apiece, while Dela Rosa added 10 points.
Import Du’vaughn Maxwell carried the Fuel Masters on his back with 32 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists, but lacked help from the locals in the lopsided loss that saw Phoenix tally almost as many turnovers (16) as assists (19).
Jason Perkins and RR Garcia were the only two other Fuel Masters players in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Magnolia 127 – Lee 25, Barroca 18, Harris 15, Jalalon 15, Abueva 12, Sangalang 11, Wong 11, Dela Rosa 10, Dionisio 5, Ahanmisi 3, Reavis 2, Corpuz 0, Brill 0, Escoto 0.
Phoenix 88 – Maxwell 32, Perkins 11, Garcia 10, Wright 8, Jazul 7, Melecio 7, Robles 6, Pascual 4, Demusis 3, Porter 0, Manganti 0, Rios 0, Camacho 0.
Quarters: 34-20, 66-46, 102-67, 127-88.