MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The Magnolia Hotshots recovered from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to outlast the NLEX Road Warriors, 112-109, and preserve their perfect start to the 2021 PBA Governors' Cup, Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Import Mike Harris delivered a clutch shot with 12 seconds to go to peg the final score, and the Hotshots survived potential game-tying three-pointers by NLEX's KJ McDaniels and Don Trollano in the closing seconds.
Harris finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds, while Paul Lee added 21 points and four assists as the Hotshots improved to 5-0 in the conference. It is their best start to a tournament under coach Chito Victolero.
Making the win all the more impressive is that the Hotshots were playing without injured star forward Calvin Abueva as well as Rome dela Rosa. Jackson Corpuz, tasked with guarding McDaniels, fouled out with six minutes to play to further stretch the Magnolia rotation.
"It's all about our effort," said Victolero. "We had a bad start, but the second group saved us today. Our bench saved us today, and credit to them. They gave us the energy."
"I think credit to the players 'yung start namin, 'yung 5-0 namin, credit to them, because they committed doon sa system. Talagang in-embrace nila 'yung ginagawa namin," he added.
The Road Warriors looked to be on their way to ending Magnolia's unbeaten record, as they took an 88-77 lead after the third quarter behind the hot 3-point shooting of Trollano and McDaniels. The pair combined to make five of 11 attempts from beyond the arc in the third period, while the Hotshots missed the lone three-pointer that they took in the frame.
NLEX still led by 11 points, 92-81, with over 10 minutes left off two free throws by Jericho Cruz, but Ian Sangalang and Mark Barroca conspired to bring the Hotshots closer. The veteran guard, in particular, clustered together five straight points to make it a five-point game, 92-87, with still 9:20 to play.
"I wanted to increase the pressure. I want to control the pace of the game, so I played small in the fourth quarter," Victolero said of his adjustment. "Buti na lang, kahit papaano nagkaroon kami ng runs on that three minutes, four-minute span of the game."
"And then, once naging close na 'yun game, the starters came in and they finished the game strong," he added.
An Aris Dionisio layup with under eight minutes left knotted the count at 92, and it was back-and-forth from there with neither team able to build a comfortable cushion.
A triple by Kevin Alas shifted the lead to NLEX with under three minutes left, 105-104, before Lee and Harris nailed back-to-back shots to make it a 108-105 advantage for Magnolia with 1:40 to go. The Road Warriors still had a chance when JR Quinahan scored a putback off an Alas miss to trim the deficit to one point, 110-109, with 51 seconds left.
An offensive foul called on Lee in the next possession gave NLEX an opportunity, and they got the chance to snatch the lead when Jio Jalalon fouled the rookie Matt Nieto on a three-point attempt. But Nieto uncharacteristically missed all three free throws, and Harris powered past McDaniels' defense in the next possession to give the Hotshots a 112-109 edge.
NLEX had one last chance to snatch the win, but McDaniels' and Trollano's three-pointers in the closing seconds were off the mark.
"'Yung mga ganitong mga games, talagang kailangan namin 'to eh," said Victolero, whose squad was coming off another slim 96-93 win against TNT Tropang GIGA last Friday. "Buti na lang, medyo beterano talaga ang mga players ko."
It was the third consecutive defeat for the Road Warriors, who now have a 4-3 win-loss record in the conference.
Wasted in the loss was a 35-point, 13-rebound effort from McDaniels. Alas finished with 22 points, while Trollano scored 18 off the bench.
MAGNOLIA 112 - Harris 31, Lee 21, Sangalang 14, Barroca 11, Ahanmisi 9, Wong 8, Dionisio 7, Corpuz 6, Ahanmisi 5, Reavis 0.
NLEX 109 - McDaniels 35, Alas 22, Trollano 18, Cruz 12, Quiñahan 8, Nieto 7, Soyud 5, Porter 2, Varilla 0, Rosales 0, Paniamogan 0, Ighalo 0.
Quarters: 22-25, 54-56, 77-88, 112-109.