by Waylon Galvez
The two-day break the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok enjoyed after winning Game 3 could play a big part in the team’s bid to tie their semifinal series against Rain or Shine in the PBA Philippine Cup.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero said that the back-to-back rest days allowed the entire team – from players to coaches – to regain their strength after playing their sixth straight game in the past 11 days.
“Of course it’s good that we were able to have a couple of days rest, it’s good for the players,” Victolero said prior to the team’s practice session Friday at the Ronac gym in San Juan City.
“We’re really tired, the whole team, because we’ve been playing on consecutive games, and from coaches to players we’re a bit drained. We gave the players two days off – Wednesday and Thursday. I’m sure players will have fresh legs and also fresh minds,” added Victolero.
Magnolia’s playoff campaign began with an 86-75 defeat against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in Game 1 of their best-of-three quarterfinal series last April 6.
The team then took the next two games – 106-77 in Game 2 and 85-72 in Game 3 – to clinch a semifinal berth.
A well rested Rain or Shine squad stunned Magnolia in their series opener of their Final Four playoff, 84-77, and the grabbed a 2-0 lead in the series with a 93-80 win in Game 2.
Magnolia, behind a combined 32 points from guard Paul Lee – formerly a ROS mainstay – and center Ian Sangalang, came through with an 85-74 triumph in Game 3 last Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game 4 is set Monday also at the Bog Dome, and both Lee and Sangalang are fully aware of the importance of the match.
“It’s very crucial because if we can’t win that game, the efforts we gave to win the previous game will all be wasted because they’ll be one win away from making the Finals… it’s going to be tough for us,” said Lee.
“We just have to stay positive. Whatever their game plan is, we just have to be ready,” said Sangalang.
“Everything will start on defense, that’s where we set the tone, that’s the way Magnolia plays basketball.”