Top seeds get keys to semis

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Top seed Bay Area and No. 2 Magnolia blitzed their way to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals after dispatching their lower-ranked opponents yesterday at the PhilSports Arena.

The Dragons, with Chinese-Australian sniper Hayden Blankley erupting for 47 points spiked by 10 triples, finished off No. 8 Rain or Shine via a 126-96 rout.

Taking their cue, the Hotshots made short work of No. 7 Phoenix in their end of the quarterfinals, 102-95.

Calvin Abueva (19) and Nick Rakocevic (18) led the breakaway from 86-86 in the last 5:30 as the Hotshots pulled through with coach Chito Victolero out on health protocols.

Next up for Magnolia is the winner of the best-of-three tiff between Ginebra and NorthPort. The Gin Kings are one-up after a 118-102 opening victory.

The 30-point demolition job sent the twice-to-beat-carrying guest from Hong Kong on course for a salivating showdown with either defending champion San Miguel or Converge.

The fifth-seeded Beermen lead the No. 4 FiberXers in their race-to-two quarterfinal affair, 1-0, and can follow the Dragons into the semis with a follow-up to their 114-96 win in today’s Game 2.

“We’re so excited that we’re in the Top 4 of the PBA in our first year. Tremendous accomplishment. We get to step up to the plate and (possibly) take a swing at the champions. Couldn’t ask for more,” said Bay Area coach Brian Goorjian.

In a rare instance of a “local” taking the scoring cudgels for the Dragons, the sweet-shooting Blankley made 17 of his 21 shots overall and missed only three attempts from deep.

“I want to give a lot of the credit to my teammates. Once I hit a few, they kept telling me they’d keep looking for me,” he said.

“The motivation behind today’s game was that guys are going down and it’s the playoffs so people have to step up. I just wanted to start the playoffs strong and get us going.”

The need for Bay Area’s perimeter shooters to level up was magnified by the “severe foot injury” that hit explosive American guard Myles Powell in practice.

The Dragons’ other import, 6-foot-10 Andrew Nicholson, took over and dropped 32 plus eight boards. Skipper Glen Yang also produced twin-digit scoring with 13 while accounting for three of Bay Area’s 21 three-point connections.

Rain or Shine, which reached the quarters after surviving a KO match for No. 8 with NLEX, 110-100, kept in step with the powerhouse Dragons early on.

But in a six-minute spell bridging the first and second periods, Nicholson and Blankley anchored a 15-0 salvo to create a big separation.


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