By JONAS TERRADO
Magnolia Pambansang Manok’s series-clinching win over Meralco in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals was not completed without the stellar job by its role players.
Playing second fiddle to Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang, Paul Lee and Mark Barroca since the start of the conference, Rome dela Rosa and Jio Jalalon provided the vital contributions that enabled the Hotshots to finish off the Bolts, 93-85, Friday.
Dela Rosa, known for being one the team’s reliable wing defenders, provided timely offense by hitting 16 points highlighted by four triples.
His back-to-back threes in the second quarter allowed Magnolia to take the lead for good while his other shots from beyond the arc came while Meralco attempted to make a second half rally.
The son of former PBA player Romy dela Rosa also grabbed five rebounds, two of which on the offensive glass and also forced Meralco’s Chris Newsome to work doubly hard on his 14-point output.
“We trained Rome to become a two-way player. That’s what we trained in the offseason,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero. “We gave Rome the confidence to shoot outside and he delivered. That’s why he’s our best defender in the perimeter and he spreads the floor.”
Jalalon had 11 points and seven rebounds, five of which were on the offensive glass which set up some important second chance points for Magnolia in the final two quarters.
The Hotshots guard has somewhat regained his reputation as someone who can impact the team with his quickness and unwavering activity.
“He helped us a lot on defense, pressure defense, and of course yung kanyang pag-orchestrate sa offense. Talagang nabibigyan niya kami ng extra energy sa offense and defense,” the Hotshots mentor said.
Victolero also took time to hail the contributions of scrappy guard Justin Melton and 19-year PBA veteran Rafi Reavis, long-time Magnolia players who can still contribute when needed.
Melton was inserted into the starting lineup and his two back-to-back threes in the fourth kept Meralco at bay.
Reavis drew closer to winning his 12th championship after having six points, eight rebounds and two blocks while defending Raymond Almazan and Cliff Hodge.
It was total team-effort for the Hotshots, who’ll now be in their third Philippine Cup Finals in the last four years and will be an interested spectator of the deciding seventh game between the San Miguel Beermen and the TNT Tropang Giga.
Whoever ends up with the victory, Magnolia can hope that a similar effort will come out once the championship series kicks off.
“Nagtulong-tulong lang kami. Yun lang naman sinabi ko sa kanila, no pressure, no expectations, just play hard, give their multiple effort on defense and offense, and the results will come,” said Victolero. “We’re successful on both ends of the floor, that’s why we have the victory.”