Hotshots finish off Fuel Masters, arrange Finals duel with Beermen

Magnolia successfully avoided a collapse in the fourth quarter to defeat Phoenix Super LPG, 89-79, on Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

With this victory, Magnolia secured its spot in the finals of the PBA Season 48 Commissioner’s Cup.

The Hotshots got off to a strong start, thanks to Mark Barroca, who helped them establish a 17-point lead that they eventually extended to 21 points. Despite a spirited fightback from the Fuel Masters, Tyler Bey, Paul Lee, and Ian Sangalang provided the stability needed to secure the win.

After bouncing back from a 103-85 defeat in Game 3, Magnolia sealed a 3-1 victory in the best-of-five semifinals. They now look forward to facing San Miguel in the finals, which will be a race-to-four matchup starting on Friday.

Barroca led Magnolia with 21 points and showed no signs of his right hamstring strain when he hit a three-pointer, giving his team an 83-68 lead with 3:44 left in the game.

Bey contributed 20 points and 20 rebounds, Sangalang came off the bench for 12 points, and Lee, despite only scoring six points, provided four assists in the fourth quarter. Lee’s passes mostly resulted in baskets for Bey and Sangalang, securing the wire-to-wire victory.

Coach Chito Victolero is not looking too far ahead to the series against the powerhouse Beermen. He is simply grateful that his team was able to overcome Phoenix’s tough challenge.

“I would like to give credit to (Phoenix) coach Jamike (Jarin) and the whole organization of Phoenix. They did a very, very good job,” said Victolero during the post-game presser. “Actually, it was a battle. Walang tulugan. They gave us a very, very good fight and hats off to coach Jamike. Talagang pinag-isip niya kaming buong coaching staff.”

Victolero also mentioned that the lessons learned from their defeat in Game 3, where they were outscored 65-34 in the second half, helped them in this game.

“We just stayed composed and at the same time we went to our strength, which is our defense,” stressed Victolero. “We talked about it at halftime. We expected a run from them. But, iyon nga, we stayed calm, we weathered the storm and iyon nga. Kailangan lang naming maging composed na nagawa naman namin.”

Phoenix put up a fight and made a strong comeback in the third quarter, led by RJ Jazul, reducing the deficit to just 51-53.

However, Bey completed a three-point play that ignited a balanced 17-2 run for Magnolia, giving them a 70-53 lead.

In the final quarter, Sean Manganti led another Phoenix comeback, bringing the Fuel Masters within 74-83. But the Hotshots remained composed, with Sangalang and Bey providing the points and Lee demonstrating leadership.

Johnathan Williams led Phoenix with 17 points and 17 rebounds, while RR Garcia contributed 15 points off the bench. Jazul and Manganti also scored at least 10 points each, while Jason Perkins could only contribute six points.

The scores:

Magnolia 89 – Barroca 21, Bey 20, Sangalang 12, Dionisio 8, Dela Rosa 7, Lee 6, Tratter 6, Jalalon 5, Laput 4, Ahanmisi 0, Reavis 0, Abueva 0.

Phoenix 79 – Williams 17, Garcia 15, Jazul 11, Manganti 10, Perkins 6, Alejandro 5, Tio 5, Muyang 4, Tuffin 3, Rivero 3, Soyud 0, Mocon 0, Verano 0, Camacho 0.

Quarterscores: 29-16, 49-38, 70-53, 89-79.

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