THE Magnolia Hotshots defeated San Miguel for the second time in a row, 96-85, on Friday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, tying their best-of-seven series at two games each.
In the previous game, Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero emphasized during the postgame interview the significance of keeping San Miguel’s offensive output below 90 in order for them to win.
The Hotshots and Beermen traded leads throughout the first quarter before Paul Lee made a vicious stepback three, which Jericho Cruz countered with an isolation drive to narrow the advantage to 19-27 at the end of the first quarter.
During the early portion of the second quarter, June Mar Fajardo got on a personal mini-run, scoring six straight points to cut the margin to three, 25-28, with 9:41 remaining.
Magnolia, on the other hand, demonstrated that defense isn’t their only strength as Tyler Bey, Mark Barroca, and Ian Sangalang led the team’s attack during the second quarter, allowing them to maintain a slim 49-45 advantage at halftime.
During the third quarter, Don Trollano matched Jio Jalalon and Aris Dionisio’s shooting by exchanging three-pointers against the entire Magnolia squad.
This inspired the Beermen squad, led by the Best Player of the Conference, CJ Perez, a three from Marcio Lassiter, Trollano, and Bennie Boatwright, who continued to attack the basket aggressively to take the lead, 73-72.
With less than 5 minutes remaining in the game, the Hotshots seal the deal by burying the Beermen, thanks to Bey and Sangalang’s presence down low and Lee’s devastating long three.
“I believe everyone embraced our defensive approach and accepted that we are the underdogs in this series. We made sacrifices for this series, especially this man (pointing to Tyler Bey), who handled their best player, Bennie Boatwright,” Victolero remarked.
SMB shot 37 percent from the field, while Magnolia shot slightly higher at 41 percent. The Beermen also had a poor outside shooting percentage, making only eight of 37 tries.
“Everything boils down to our defense. Again, we limited them to under 90 points, that’s our goal. As long as we are this, the series goes to that defensive game, we have a good chance of winning games,” he said.
More than the defense, the Hotshots’ firepower was enormous, headed by import Tyler Bey, who returned to form with 26 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, and six steals, highlighting his versatility.
Bey was supported by Lee and Barroca, who each scored 14 points, while Sangalang concluded with 13 points on 6/10 two-point field goal shooting, and the tenacious guard Jalalon contributed 10 points.
Bennie Boatwright, on the other side, was restricted to his lowest scoring effort in the conference, finishing with 16 points and 14 rebounds. June Mar Fajardo made up for it with 18 points, while Perez added 17 points and five rebounds.
With the series deadlocked, the title is once again up for grabs. The Hotshots, who have now flipped the momentum in their favor, will attempt to take a 3-2 Finals lead on Sunday at 6:15PM at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.