Coach Chito Victolero believes Magnolia has the capability of making a deep playoff run in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup even if the chance of a twice-to-beat advantage is no longer in his team’s hands.
“I think we’re ready for the playoffs,” Victolero said following Magnolia’s 110-95 rout of Blackwater at Ynares Center in Antipolo City. “I don’t know where we will end up. But as long we have the chance, we’ll take it.”
Their run of form since the arrival of import Antonio Hester and the inspired play of the locals, including Calvin Abueva, allowed Magnolia to overcome a 0-3 start and enter the quarterfinals with a 7-4 record.
But the possibility of a quarterfinal bonus could be known after the Barangay Ginebra-Terrafirma tiff at press time.
Computations made by The Inquirer have put the Hotshots out of the top four and in a twice-to-win scenario if the Gin Kings score an expected win over the Dyip and clinch the much-needed bonus.
Even if it ends up without an incentive, teams could be in a tricky situation if they are bracketed with Magnolia in the playoffs.
Hester’s presence in the paint has created problems for the opposition, and it was evident against Blackwater with his 22 points and 20 rebounds.
Reliable stars like Mark Barroca and Paul Lee continue to put up consistent numbers, Jio Jalalon has been a source of energy on both ends while Russel Escoto, who had 17 points, and Aris Dionisio are filling in the void of the ailing Ian Sangalang.
Quietly delivering numbers is Abueva, who was hailed as the TV panel’s Player of the Game after his 27-point showing allowed him to become the 96th member of the 5,000-point club. He also grabbed 13 rebounds.
But Magnolia was coming off a needed wake-up call after stealing the game from Terrafirma last Saturday by forcing overtime and winning, 121-115, despite trailing by 15 with four minutes to go in regulation.
“We can’t be too confident playing against weaker teams or teams at the bottom of the standings because it could slip out of our hands,” Abueva said in Filipino. “We were given a hard time by Terrafirma and it took a while for us to realize what happened.”
“This time, we made sure that we could execute and play better defense against this Blackwater team,” he added.
Blackwater exited the conference and Season 47 with a horrendous 1-10 record following a nine-game skid.
The Bossing have lost 24 of out 28 games since they started the 2022-23 campaign with a 5-1 record in the Philippine Cup.
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