MANILA, Philippines -- Magnolia coach Chito Victolero hopes to get another strong 48-minute effort from the Hotshots as they gun for a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven semifinal series in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup.
The Hotshots pulled away in the fourth quarter of Game 1 for an 88-79 win to draw first blood in the series against the Meralco Bolts, with Calvin Abueva bucking foul trouble to spark Magnolia's strong finish.
For Victolero, it was gratifying to see his players keep up their energy all throughout the game, especially as the memories of their elimination round game against the Bolts are still fresh.
"Regarding sa pag-focus namin, we talk about for 48 minutes eh. We learned a lot from our game last time, 'yung eliminations. We only played 46 minutes," said Victolero.
In their lone elimination round game last September 1, the Hotshots squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, as they gave up a 15-1 run to end the game.
After leading 93-80 with two minutes left, Magnolia scored just one point the rest of the way, and Meralco forward Chris Newsome scored the go-ahead layup in the final seconds for a 95-94 win.
In Game 1 of the semis, there was no such let-up for the Hotshots. Abueva's slam dunk gave them an 82-72 lead with under three minutes to go, and their defense held firm in the closing moments.
"Kung makikita niyo, even we're up by 12, we keep on pressuring the ball because we know that they can come back. 'Yun 'yung gusto lang namin. We want to finish the game, kumbaga, talagang hard," said Victolero.
Game 2 of the series is on Wednesday, still at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga, and Victolero is anticipating yet another "dogfight."
"It's always a tough game (against Meralco)," he noted.
"Both teams naman, may pride diyan eh. And they have a system also, they are a defensive team also. Kumbaga, duguan bago ka maka-score eh," the coach added. "So it's all about the discipline and execution siguro."
"Kita niyo naman, from start to finish, close game. Siguro sa dulo lang magkakatalo talaga," said Victolero.
The first game of the series featured emotional flare-ups as Victolero was called for a technical foul in the fourth quarter after a verbal altercation with Meralco's Raymond Almazan.
But the coach was pleased to see his players keep their cool and play hard until the final buzzer, and that's what he hopes to see again as they search for another win.
"I like the attitude of my players. I like the discipline, and hopefully we continue to do that as the series goes on," said Victolero.