Hotshots focused on fighting hard

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Hotshots focused on fighting hard
Magnolia's Ian Sangalang (10)
PBA Images

MANILA, Philippines — There’s a lot of positive vibes inside the Magnolia camp.

After a stumbling 1-2 start, the Hotshots have gained traction especially on defense and racked up back-to-back wins over NorthPort, 104-97, and Phoenix, 107-93, to leap to solo fourth in the PBA Philippine Cup at 3-2.

A major factor in this resurgence is the return-to-form of star slotman Ian Sangalang. In tip-top shape after his recovery from the thyroid illness that sidelined him for most of 2023, Sangalang had a career high 32 with 13 rebounds as the Hotshots stopped the streaking Batang Pier then turned in 23-9-5 versus Phoenix.

“We’re thankful nakabalik na si Ian nang maayos at nakukuha na niya ‘yung kundisyon at kumpyansa niya. Malaking bagay si Ian sa team namin kasi he’s our best post-up player at pagbalik niya, maganda na ang rotation namin sa frontline,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero.

Now within striking distance of the coveted Top 2 and twice-to-beat incentive, the Hotshots look to sustain this charge.

Standing between them and win No. 4 in today’s 7:30 p.m. encounter at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium is Blackwater (3-4), a squad on a spiral but one that’s never to be underestimated.

“Dito sa PBA ngayon, hindi mo na mape-predict kung sino mananalo. If you’re not prepared or if you relax, even if you’re the No. 1 team or an elite team, your opponent will kill you,”  Victolero said. “That’s why ini-instill namin sa players ‘yung proper mindset to compete and ibigay ang best namin.”

This they better do. Otherwise the hungry Bossing are ready to pounce. Jeff Cariaso’s charges, who opened the tournament with 3-0, are eager to get back on track after dropping their last four games.

Meanwhile, resurgent Rain or Shine (4-4) and skidding NorthPort (4-3) dispute that crucial fifth victory in their 4:30 p.m. tussle.

The winner between the Elasto Painters, unbeaten in their last four matches, and the Batang Pier, winless in their last two, moves closer to a guaranteed seat in the quarterfinals.

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