MANILA, Philippines—Ian Sangalang's performances have become a sort of barometer for the Magnolia Hotshots in their 2017-18 PBA Philippine Cup finals series against the San Miguel Beermen.
Simply put, the better Sangalang plays, the more competitive the Hotshots are against the powerhouse San Miguel squad.
In Game 1, he exploded for 29 points and nine rebounds, and was the spark in Magnolia's 105-103 come-from-behind win. He was limited to 11 points in Game 2 and just six points on 2-of-10 shooting in Game 3, and the Hotshots lost those games by an average of 19.5 points.
He bounced back in Game 4, firing 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, and again sparking a Magnolia comeback. He scored all five points in the Hotshots' closing run that made it a two-point game, 80-82, with still 1:12 to play.
However, he was shut down the rest of the way, and the Hotshots suffered a few unlucky breaks in the final minute of the game. Aldrech Ramos bricked an open baseline jumper, and Mark Barroca fumbled the ball in the last nine seconds when they had a chance to tie the game or even take the lead.
" 'Yung game na pinakita namin kanina, game namin 'yun," said Sangalang after they lost Game 4, 84-80. "'Yun 'yung game namin."
"This is the first time na ganoon 'yung depensa namin, na na-limit namin (ang San Miguel)," he noted. "Kasi 'yung first three games, kahit 'yung panalo namin, hindi namin game 'yun eh, kasi umabot pa rin sila ng 100 points."
"So ayun, nakuha namin 'yung game namin, pero talo pa rin kami," he added. "Pero positive lang kami na next game, ganoon pa rin 'yung gagawin namin."
The result notwithstanding, it was a relief for the Magnolia faithful to see Sangalang get untracked once more, after being checked by the Beermen in Games 2 and 3. The big man drew some of the biggest cheers of the night when he spun past June Mar Fajardo with 1:12 to play, scored the lay-up, and drew the foul to boot.
He completed the three-point play that brought Magnolia to within two points, before being silenced by the San Miguel defense.
"Siguro, kahit papaano, naka-adjust na ako," said Sangalang after the game. "Kahit papaano, hindi ako nanggigil today."
"Ginawa ko lang, nag-enjoy ako. Once na mabigyan ako ng pagkakataon, ayun – igo-go hard ko lang," he added. "Ginagawa ko lang kung ano 'yung dapat kong gawin."
"Hindi ako gigil ngayon. Parang normal game lang," he said.
Unfortunately for Magnolia, Sangalang's bounce-back performance was not enough to lift them to victory in Game 4. As it is, they are in a 1-3 hole in the best-of-seven series, and their backs are against the wall in Friday's Game 5 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
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