MANILA, Philippines -- Even with Calvin Abueva limited to just 10 minutes due to foul trouble, the Magnolia Hotshots remained within striking distance of the Meralco Bolts through the third quarter of their game on Sunday.
Abueva, the leading candidate for Best Player of the Conference honors in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup, had accumulated five fouls through the first three frames of Game 1 of their semifinals series against the Bolts.
Yet the Hotshots were down by just three points, 64-61, entering the final quarter, and they eventually dominated the fourth period en route to an 88-79 win.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero gave plenty of credit to his reserves who stepped up to fill in Abueva's minutes and made sure that the Bolts would not pull away.
"Ang maganda lang dito is other guys stepped up," said Victolero. "Siguro sa first half, ilang minutes lang naglaro si Calvin. But Rome (dela Rosa), Aris Dionisio, even Jack Corpuz, nag-step up."
While Abueva was on the bench, Dionisio, dela Rosa, and Corpuz provided the Hotshots with the energy and hustle that "The Beast" usually brings. Dela Rosa, in particular, was superb, tallying six points, three rebounds, three steals, and two assists in 25 minutes.
Veteran center Rafi Reavis (9 points, 10 rebounds) and Ian Sangalang (18 points, 8 rebounds) were steady as always, and Paul Lee provided 17 points.
"Tulong-tulong lang talaga kami. It's not Calvin, it's not Ian or Paul," Victolero stressed. "It's a team effort."
Sangalang, who earned Player of the Game honors, also commended his teammates for keeping their heads up and their energy high even though Abueva had to sit out a bulk of the contest.
Entering the semifinals of the Philippine Cup, Abueva had emerged as the front-runner for BPC honors with averages of 15.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. Sangalang is fourth in the race, having put up 16.8 points and 8.0 boards per contest.
"I always talk to my teammates na, kahit wala si Calvin siyempre kailangan namin manalo sa Game 1," said Sangalang. "Lagi lang kaming naguusap-usap sa loob, during may timeouts or during out of bounds 'yung bola."
"Sabi ko, maging positive lang kami sa mga nangyayari kasi hindi naman namin control lahat ng mga nangyayari sa loob eh. So ayun, sabi ko maging positive lang kami, and mananalo kami dito. Ayun, nagawa namin," he added.
Ultimately, Abueva still put the finishing touches on the game for the Hotshots. The do-it-all forward played 10 minutes in the fourth quarter, scoring eight points to spark Magnolia's breakaway. He punctuated his performance with a steal and a dunk inside the final three minutes to push their lead to 10 points, 82-72.
"The way Calvin ay tumingin sa akin noong fourth quarter, gustong-gusto niyang maglaro eh. So, sabi ko, bahala na, basta ingatan lang niya," said Victolero.
"At least, ang laking tulong, nakakuha siya ng mga ilang rebounds, nakakuha kami ng energy sa kanya sa opensa at saka sa depensa. Iba din talaga 'pag andoon si Calvin," he added.