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Sports

Serbian dynamo lifts Hotshots over Dyip

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Serbian dynamo lifts Hotshots over Dyip
Magnolia prized find Nick Rakocevic scores on an uncontested jam.
Jun Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines — Serbian dynamo Nick Rakocevic introduced himself to the PBA with a 45-point, 25-rebound sizzler to power Magnolia to a 100-92 victory over Terrafirma yesterday in the Commissioner’s Cup at the MOA Arena.

Rakocevic, whom coach Chito Victolero likened to the Hotshots’ do-it-all Calvin Abueva, was all over the floor, going for offensive boards and running after 50-50 balls in a swashbuckling debut he capped with a dagger dunk in the stretch.

The 24-year-old USC Trojans alumnus converted 17 of his 26 attempts as he set a new conference high in scoring while adding three blocks, two assists, and two steals to his ledger.

“He plays both ends, he contributes to our defensive schemes and our offense. He’s very aggressive and yung activity level niya ang gusto namin sa kanya,” Victolero, who reported for duty wearing an orthopedic boot because of an Achilles tear he sustained in a pickup game, said of their import.

“We love his energy. I have another Calvin on the floor.”

Abueva didn’t see action yesterday due to an injury but is expected to be good to go in their next outing Saturday against Converge.

Jio Jalalon backstopped Rakocevic with 12 points, including six that helped Magnolia weather Terrafirma’s fourth-quarter storm. Ian Sangalang chipped in 10 while Jackson Corpuz and Paul Lee shot nine apiece and Marc Barroca posted eight markers and eight dimes.

“They fought hard and competed down to the last second,” said Rakocevic of his local teammates. “It’s a big win for us. It’s our first game and we want to start off well.”

The former Serbia U-20 national team mainstay outdueled Terrafirma counterpart Lester Prosper, who had 41 and 19.

Despite another monster game from Prosper and a complementary 19-pointer from Juami Tiongzon, the Dyip fell to 0-2 on a day coach John Cardel went under health protocols. Overall, Terrafirma has lost 18 straight games dating back to 2020.

The Dyip clawed back from a 75-60 deficit and even took a 92-91 upperhand going to the last 2:59.

But that turned out to be their last say in this showdown as Lee knocked down a clutch triple and joined hands with Barroca and Rakocevic in a 9-0 closeout.

“There are some things to improve on but overall, I like our toughness down the stretch and how we stayed focused when the game got close in the fourth quarter,” said Rakocevic.

It wasn’t exactly the best of starts for tournament debutant Magnolia as it trailed Terrafirma, 21-13, in the initial skirmishes.

Later, Rain or Shine routed Barangay Ginebra, 93-71, to give chief strategist Yeng Guiao his first win back at the franchise’s helm after falling short last week.

The Elasto Painters used a telling 30-5 exchange in the second period to tear the game apart en route to the bounceback win from their 96-90 loss to Guiao’s former team NLEX last Friday.

Steve Taylor Jr. scattered 21-10-5 while Santi Santillan added 15.

PBA

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