Reaching the semifinals for the fifth time in the last six conferences is not the ultimate objective, according to Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero.
Victolero considers the team’s recent Final Four appearance as part of their ongoing efforts to break the franchise’s nearly six-year-long PBA title drought.
Magnolia secured their place in the semifinals by defeating TNT 109-94 on Wednesday.
The top-seeded Hotshots dominated the Tropang Giga with import Tyler Bey’s impressive performance of 41 points and 13 rebounds.
Victolero mentioned that the loss to Meralco in the team’s last elimination round match in Iloilo served as a valuable reminder that they must put in extra effort to achieve their championship goal.
“It (loss to Meralco) builds our character. We talk about our last game because for us, that was the start of our playoff game,” said Victolero.
The Hotshots lost for just the second time in the conference but still secured the top spot with a 9-2 record.
“Our last game was so bad, but the good thing is we have 10 or 11 days before this game (against TNT) so all the adjustments we needed, we were able to make,” he added.
Although reaching the semifinals may appear as an expected outcome for the team, the Magnolia mentor expressed their aspiration to ultimately win the PBA championship.
“Every conference we’re here (in the semis) and hopefully, this time we go all the way,” said Victolero, who guided Magnolia to the franchise’s last PBA title during the 2018 Governors’ Cup.
“Now we have to prepare hard for the semis. We need to prepare one day at a time, and stay on the present and make sure we have the mental preparation,” he said.
The Hotshots have been performing consistently well this season, with several key players like Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, Jio Jalalon, Ian Sangalan, and Calvin Abueva all making significant contributions to their victories.
Magnolia is now waiting for the winner of the Phoenix-Meralco quarterfinal match, which went into sudden death after Meralco’s 116-107 triple overtime victory last Wednesday.