Hotshots stall Tropa

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Hotshots stall Tropa
TNT’s Poy Erram and Magnolia’s Calvin Abueva engage in a rebound dispute.
Jun Mendoza

 Barroca ties career playoff-high 25 pts  

MANILA, Philippines — Anchored on Mark Barroca’s playoff career-high-matching 25 points, embattled Magnolia survived Game 5 and spoiled TNT’s plan to enter the PBA Philippine Cup finals.

Barroca dropped 16 of his production in the first half to give the Hotshots the early momentum for a life-saving 105-97 win over the Tropang Giga that forced a sixth match in the semis confrontation yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang and Calvin Abueva shot identical 16 markers while Jio Jalalon had 15 and Aris Dionisio made 10 to complement the aggressive play of Barroca as Magnolia cut TNT’s lead to 3-2.

The Hotshots’ defense held the explosive pair of Mikey Williams and RR Pogoy to 13 apiece in this stay-alive mission. Jayson Castro took the scoring cudgels for the Tropang Giga with 18 but coughed up only one in the fourth.

“We did a good job on defense and sustained it for 48 minutes. And we stayed out of foul trouble despite playing physical,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero.

“Backs against the wall, do-or-die, the players showed their mental toughness. We expected a grind on both ends and everyone – from Mark (Barroca) down to the 15th guy, talagang trinabaho nila ito,” he added.

With Barroca as fire starter, the Hotshots seized a 51-35 tear in the second period and went into intermission ahead by 14 at 59-45. Barroca and Co. used a 31-19 exchange to make this breakaway.

As expected, TNT mounted a serious run and threatened to within three points five times in the final canto. But each time, the Barroca-led Hotshots had an answer.

“Fight lang for another day, another practice. Yan ang naging motivation namin,” said Barroca, who also posted six rebounds and four assists.

Victolero said he specifically urged Barroca to be aggressive from the get-go so his teammates would follow.

“Kailangan talaga maging aggressive sa start pa lang ng game. Down kami 1-3, kailangang mag-push ng energy sa laro yung first group para pagpasok ng second group, may puhunan na,” said the veteran playmaker, who scored seven in the opening canto to tow Magnolia to a 28-26 edge after initially trailing, 13-6.

The Hotshots’ victory prevented the Tropang Giga from repeating their 4-1 conquest in last year’s best-of-seven title series and stopped their rivals from reaching their third straight finals.

Later, San Miguel Beer got on the hill in its own semis duel with Meralco after an 89-78 triumph in Game 5.

Jericho Cruz, bouncing back from a two-point performance in their 111-97 loss last Wednesday, netted 17 to go with four rebounds and two steals as the Beermen moved a win away from their first all-Filipino finals appearance since winning a five-peat in 2019.

Cruz’ heroics were largely felt in the third, where he scored nine in a 26-12 period that propelled SMB to a 67-56 tear.

The Bolts trimmed it down to a manageable two-pointer, 78-76, only for Rodney Brondial to spearhead an 11-2 counter that iced it for Leo Austria’s squad.

Barroca said Magnolia’s defensive scheme involved putting the cuffs on Williams and the other TNT gunners.

“Ang maganda ngayon, hindi sila sabay-sabay pumutok. Nag-take charge si Jayson pero na-stop namin si Mikey. Mahirap pag nagsabay-sabay sila. Ma-limit namin ang dalawa sa kanila at isa lang ang pumutok, may chance kami,” he said.

Williams went five-of-16 (31.3 percent) against Rome dela Rosa and Adrian Wong with occasional help from Rafi Reavis and the other bigs. Pogoy made 10 of his 16 shots but managed only three markers in the payoff period.

Lee, who has been preoccupied with defending against Pogoy, was more assertive  offensively.  The Magnolia rifleman delivered six in a clutch 10-4 salvo that led to a 105-94 cushion in the last 2:04.

“Paul is doing a good job on both ends, especially his defense. He’s sacrificed a lot and made a lot of effort defensively. Offensively, if he contributes, we’re fine. If not, the other guys will step up,” said Victolero.

The fourth-quarter buffer allowed Victolero to rest Jio Jalalon, who has been bothered by a strained hamstring, in the fourth in preparation for their bid to equalize tomorrow.


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