MANILA, Philippines—A massive lead very nearly went up in smoke for the Magnolia Hotshots on Monday, as they just managed to hold on for a 94-91 triumph over the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.
The Hotshots were up 54-33 late in the second quarter of Game 4, and continued to nurse a double-digit lead throughout the third frame. But they were outscored by Rain Or Shine, 27-14, in the fourth period behind the heroics of James Yap.
Fortunately for Magnolia, they did just enough to preserve the victory. Jio Jalalon made two clutch free throws with four seconds to go, and their defense held up in the final possession to force Yap to a tough miss.
"We knew na Rain or Shine will come back. ’Yun ang iniintay namin but the thing is, we held on to our lead," said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero after the game. "Mahirap kalaban 'yang Rain Or Shine."
With the result, their best-of-7 series is now tied at two games apiece — and that's all Victolero is concerned with.
Game 5 is set on Wednesday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
"Good thing, a win is a win. Maybe it's 20 points, 10 points 3 points or 1 point, I will take it," said the coach.
"We just only tied the series, and it boils down to a best-of-3."
Magnolia forward Ian Sangalang, who led the team with 19 points and 10 rebounds, even sees a silver lining to Rain or Shine's furious fightback in the endgame.
"Well, maganda ’yung ginawa nila. Pero the good thing nanalo pa rin kami. One point or kahit ilan pa ’yung lamang namin, ang importante nanalo kami," said Sangalang.
"Tapos, mapag-aaralan namin kung ano ’yung ginawa nila sa amin noong end ng game, kung bakit hindi kami naka-score doon or nai-stop nila kami," he pointed out. "Masaya kami na nangyari ’yun kasi malalaman namin kung ano ginawa nila at makakapag-adjust kami."
The Elasto Painters used a four-guard lineup in the fourth quarter, and their increased aggressiveness got the Hotshots into early penalty situation. Yap, in particular, repeatedly baited his defenders into committing fouls.
Rain Or Shine, however, could not make the Hotshots pay for their foul-prone ways, as they made just 28 of a whopping 42 free throw attempts.
While they managed to hold on this time around, the Hotshots are also wary of committing the same mistakes as the series progresses.
"End of the day, a win is a win," said Paul Lee, who had 15 points. "But we need to learn from that, we need to be ready. Kasi lahat sinubukan nila kanina, parang nangyari nothing to lose na so nadalian sila kumilos."
"We need to be better sa next game," he stressed.
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