NOT since its grand slam victory five years ago has Magnolia won the Philippine Cup, the most prestigious of the three conferences in a PBA season.
Today, the Hotshots can end that drought by beating San Miguel Beer in Game 6 of their title duel for the kickoff conference set at 6:30 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Last Friday, the Hotshots made a giant step towards winning their first All-Filipino title in five years by wresting the lead in the best-of-7 title duel with San Miguel Beer whom they beat in Game 5, 88-86, in a game rich in highlight plays and drama.
But Magnolia coach Chito Victolero just would not want to sound too optimistic about their chances, knowing full well that beating the Beermen – and two in a row at that – has always been a daunting task because of June Mar Fajardo.
“Hindi mo naman talaga mako-contain si June Mar for the whole game,” stressed Victolero, noting that the 6-foot-11 SMB slotman did a good job during the first half in Game 5.
“Sa first half he did a good job and in the second half, we started to get the offensive rebound. Pero nakahabol din sila because of the offensive rebound na nakukuha ni June Mar,” recalled Victolero.
The Hotshots have been giving much premium on defense because the Beermen are offensive-oriented, with most of them capable of making shots on any given night.
Notwithstanding the Hotshots’ sustained defense, Fajardo and three others – Marcio Lassiter, Arwind Santos and Terrence Rmeo – were able to finish with a combined output of 69 points.
But the thing is, the Hotshots were able to drag the Beermen in a close contest in Game 5 – a strategy which Victolero said gives them handsome chances of winning.
“I love the maturity of these guys, the experience that we got last conference, and they know how to win on this situation. We battled on this situation before, and they know how to win,” said Victolero.
Ironically, only three Hotshots – Marc Barroca, Ian Sangalang and Paul Lee – managed to finish in double figures. However, the Hotshots got some breaks as the game reached its dying minutes, with Barroca making the biggest play in game marred with the sudden entry of a man in spider costume during the most crucial part of the game.
Beermen coach Leo Austria said the strange incident in Game Five involving ‘Spiderman’ didn’t play a factor in his team’s defeat.
Poor shooting that saw the Beermen shoot only 29 percent did them in.
Game Five was marred by an incident in which a man wearing a Spiderman costume ran on the court, forcing a delay in the match. The lull came when the Beermen had cut Magnolia’s lead to 84-78, with 3:08 left in the fourth.
Austria said the lull didn’t affect the Beermen. In fact, the Beermen even played better after the break.
“Before that, we had the momentum and umiiskor na kami, nakaka-depensa na kami. ‘Yung nangyaring incident na ‘yun, it didn’t affect. Hindi nakaapekto sa focus ng players. In fact, lumamang kami. We are not fortunate because the last three possessions, hindi kami naka-score,” said Austria.
Instead, Austria pointed at how the Beermen bled for their points in their two-point loss, with the Hotshots taking the win on a Mark Barroca last-second jumper.
“The breaks were not on our side. There is a lot of drama na nangyari kanina. I hope na next game, we will come out with a lot of energy because it’s a do-or-die for us,” Austria said.
The ‘Spiderman’ costume-wearing man, who was apprehended and turned over to the Police Station 7 in Cubao, faces legal action from the PBA, according to Commissioner Willie Marcial.
‘Nasa presinto na ‘yung tao, pinapatanong ko sa legal namin para makasuhan,” said Marcial during post-game interview.
“Kakasuhan namin ’yung tao and we’re just waiting for the investigation,” added Marcial.