MANILA, Philippines -- Even as Magnolia has yet to break into the win column of the 2023 PBA Governors' Cup, head coach Chito Victolero has had nothing but praise for his players, particularly for his local big men.
The likes of James Laput, Russell Escoto, and Rome dela Rosa have been asked to carry a bigger load in Magnolia's past two games, as Ian Sangalang has been unable to suit up for the Hotshots.
"I'm so proud of my locals, especially the big guys. They stepped up big without Ian," said Victolero on Sunday, after the Hotshots fell short against San Miguel Beer, 100-98.
"Of course, Ian makes a lot of difference because he's our main guy in the post. But I'm still proud of them," he added.
Against San Miguel, Escoto and Laput combined for 18 points and nine rebounds while doing their best to slow down June Mar Fajardo. Calvin Abueva added 11 points and seven boards, and dela Rosa had four points and four rebounds.
The Hotshots were unable to complete a comeback after trailing by 10 points in the fourth period, especially with import Erik McCree laboring through a 4-of-18 shooting night.
"The whole local team, they stepped up big. But you know, talagang sobrang hirap lang. Sobrang lakas lang talaga ng San Miguel. But at least we have a chance," said Victolero. "Ayun lang, hopefully by next game or next time we face again, 'yung bola, 'yung swerte ng bola pumunta sa amin."
Victolero couldn't say with certainty if Sangalang will be available for their next game on Friday against Phoenix Super LPG. The big man played in their conference-opener, a 111-109 defeat against the Converge FiberXers.
But he sat out their 93-85 defeat to TNT Tropang GIGA last Friday, with Victolero later telling reporters that Sangalang was "under the weather."
After their loss to San Miguel, Victolero said they will find out this week when Sangalang can come back.
"This week, we will know how long siyang mawawala. Hopefully we get a positive result sa ano ni Ian, sa resulta ni Ian," he said, while confirming that Sangalang does not have a COVID-related illness.
"We've been here before," Victolero also said of their 0-3 start. "We'll just try to dig deep, deeper pa para lang makuha namin 'yung first win namin."
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