Magnolia proved that slacking off was farthest from its mind as it cruised to a 98-89 victory over NLEX Sunday at the start of their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-three quarterfinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Mark Barroca punctuated a career milestone with a game-high 24 points as the third-ranked Hotshots used the momentum gained from a big second period to go on and rack up their eighth straight win and the headstart in the race to two duel against the sixth-seeded Road Warriors.
Magnolia could take the short route to the race-to-four semifinals if it wins anew on Wednesday also at the Big Dome, but coach Chito Victolero wants his team to keep its focus on the current series.
“Basta stay in the present kami. Kung ano ibinibigay sa amin ngayon iyon ‘yung tratrabahuhin namin,” said Victolero.
“We just tried to be focused for 48 minutes and we want to give our best effort, our 100 percent effort in every possession,” added Victolero. “We’ll try to be in the finals again but it’s a long journey, malayo pa iyon.”
The win also made Barroca’s night extra special. Needing just 20 points to become the 94th member of the league’s 5,000-point club, the former Far Eastern U standout moved right on the verge of the milestone with a career-best 18 first half points before scaling it with a short stab early in the third.
Barroca did not do it all by himself, however. Calvin Abueva, Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang, Jackson Corpuz and Jio Jalalon all made significant contributions.