MANILA (UPDATED) - The Magnolia Hotshots withstood a fourth quarter rally by Barangay Ginebra to claim the first Manila Clasico of the season, 89-79, on Sunday evening at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Paul Lee hit big shots down the stretch, coming out on top in a duel with Ginebra's Stanley Pringle, and Ian Sangalang also came through in the clutch to lift the Hotshots to their third straight win.
Now at 3-0, Magnolia is tied with idle Rain or Shine at the top of the league standings in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup.
"Very happy, but you know, hindi ito 'yung tinitingnan namin sa journey namin," Magnolia coach Chito Victolero said of their strong start. "Maganda yung start but we will be humble and kailangan pa rin naming mag-trabaho kasi maaga pa."
Lee finished with 22 points, making just five of his 19 field goals but going a perfect nine-of-nine at the free throw line. Sangalang had 17 points, while Calvin Abueva put up 15 points and nine boards in his first Manila Clasico.
The Hotshots led by double-digits for most of the fourth quarter but Pringle sparked a Ginebra rally, with his layup making it a two-point game, 79-77, with 3:36 to go.
But it was Magnolia that ended the game on a strong note, uncorking a 10-2 finishing kick anchored by Lee and Sangalang to hold off the Gin Kings. Lee went two-of-two at the line then scored on a layup to make it 83-77 with 2:26 to go. Pringle drilled a 17-foot jumper to make it a four-point game, but Sangalang spun free for a layup of his own that restored a six-point lead with a minute and 40 seconds to play.
"The players gave their best effort," Victolero said of his team. "We had a good start in the third quarter, and credit kay Paul sa mga teammates niya, lahat ginawa nami para makuha ang game na 'to."
Two more free throws by Lee made it 87-79 with 69 seconds to play, and Ginebra missed four three-point attempts in the final minute of the game that took the wind out of their sails.
The Gin Kings, defending champions in the All-Filipino Cup, dropped to 1-2 in the conference.
Pringle finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while LA Tenorio, Christian Standhardinger, and Scottie Thompson each had 13 points. Neither team shot well from the field, with Magnolia shooting 35% and Ginebra making 34% of its attempts.
However, the Hotshots made 27 of their 31 free throws, while Ginebra shot 20 freebies and made 15 of them.
Both teams are back in action on Friday, with Magnolia taking on TerraFirma and the Gin Kings facing off against NorthPort in what will be Standhardinger's first game against his former team.