Keeping Magnolia at Bey

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

The theory is if the opposing imports cancel each other out, then the locals will decide the outcome of the PBA Commissioners Cup Finals. But what if the imports dont perform as expected, can the locals carry the load?

Heres the situation so far after two games between top-seed Magnolia and No. 2 San Miguel Beer. In Game One, Magnolias Tyler Bey compiled 26 points, 15 rebounds, two assists and three turnovers in 39:11 minutes while San Miguels Bennie Boatwright collected 28 points, 16 rebounds, two assists and four turnovers in 45:17 minutes. They virtually neutralized each other. Only Mark Barroca finished in double figure points among Magnolias locals compared to four for San Miguel. So it wasnt a surprise that the Beermen won, 103-95. San Miguels locals picked up the cudgels and did the damage with CJ Perez scoring 19, Marcio Lassiter 16, JuneMar Fajardo 11 and Don Trollano 10.

In Game Two, Bey had 22 points, 16 rebounds, one assist and five turnovers in 43:54 minutes while Boatwright delivered 34 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four turnovers in 42:41 minutes. The disparity was evident in the shooting department as Bey went 3-of-10 from both beyond the arc and the stripe and Boatwright shot 7-of-16 triples and 1-of-2 from the line. In this instance, the imports didnt cancel each other out. Boatwright was clearly the superior force. To compound the Chicken Timplados Hotshotswoes, four San Miguel locals scored in twin digits compared to two from Magnolia with seldom-used Russel Escoto joining Barroca in the column. The Beermen had the edge in the matchups of both imports and locals, explaining the 109-95 decision.

Beys inability to extricate from San Miguels defense has been a problem for Magnolia. Hes not a post-up threat. Bey likes to attack from the outside, either down the baseline or in the middle. San Miguel, however, congests the lane with Fajardo taking up major space, leaving little room for Bey to penetrate. Beys option is to shoot from distance but in the Finals, hes hitting only 25 percent of his triples. Worse, when hes fouled taking an attempt, his free throw percentage is down to 53.3. Boatwright is Beys primary defender and if theres a switch, nobody hesitates to jump in.

Magnolia hasnt shot at least 40 percent in the Finals and the Hotshots are giving up 106 points a game, way over the 88.5 they surrendered before the playoffs. Paul Lee and Jio Jalalon are averaging a combined 12.5 points in the Finals, half of what they notched in the elims. Beys average has also dropped from 27.6 to 24. On San Miguels side, Perez and Lassiter are outdoing themselves with Boatwright, Fajardo, Trollano and Jericho Cruz playing steady.

Finding a way to slow down Boatwright is a must for the Hotshots. Coach Chito Victolero has tried Bey, Calvin Abueva, Rome de la Rosa and Abu Tratter to check him but to no avail. Hes lured Boatwright to post up against a small defender just to take away his three-point shot but that only leads to kick-outs to open shooters off the double team. Coach Jorge Gallent has the tools, artillery and weapons to counter whatever Magnolia throws on the court. The challenge is for the Hotshots to regain their intensity on defense and dictate the tempo. That means dominating the boards, taking care of possessions and creating good looks with strong picks to hit open shots. Tonights Game Three is almost a do-or-die situation for Magnolia. Another loss will put the Hotshots in a hole thats almost impossible to crawl out of.

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