PBA: Victolero delights in first Christmas Clasico victory

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 26 2021 01:23 PM

The Magnolia Hotshots ended a three-game losing streak in the
The Magnolia Hotshots ended a three-game losing streak in the "Christmas Clasico" against Barangay Ginebra. PBA Media Bureau.

MANILA, Philippines -- A victory in the Manila Clasico is always special, but for Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, their triumph against Barangay Ginebra in the 2021 PBA Governors' Cup was a tad more meaningful than usual.

For one, it was a Christmas Clasico -- the first one since 2017. The Hotshots had lost the last three times they played Ginebra on Christmas, with Victolero serving as the coach in the last two.

They finally broke through in the 2021 Christmas Clasico, and did so in emphatic fashion as Magnolia routed their rivals, 117-94, to stay unbeaten in the Governors' Cup.

"In my experience, this is my third Clasico on a Christmas day, and at least walang tatlong bulok. 'Di ba? Kahit papaano, nakapanalo akong isa sa tatlo," Victolero would say after the game.

Making the game even more memorable was the jersey retirement ceremony of two of the Purefoods franchise's most iconic players, Peter June Simon and Marc Pingris, at the half. Both the Magnolia and Ginebra rosters had watched as Simon's No. 8 and Pingris' No. 15 were officially retired by the Hotshots, one of the highest honors possible for any player.

"We're properly motivated, because it's Christmas Day also. And, plus the fact that PJ and Ping, kumbaga sila 'yung bisita namin eh. Binibigay din namin sa kanila 'yung larong 'to," said Victolero.

Perhaps what made this Clasico edition most special was that it took place in front of fans for the first time since October 2019. The Hotshots had beaten the Gin Kings in the 2020 and 2021 All-Filipino conferences, but both those games were played in bubble set-ups with no fans present.

This time, a crowd of 4,843 -- the biggest in the PBA's pandemic era -- watched at the Araneta Coliseum as the Hotshots continued their dominant start to the conference.

"'Yung last na dalawang Clasico, wala masyadong hype. Parang regular game," Victolero admitted.

"But now, you will see the excitement," he added. "Before pa lang, one week before the game pa lang, namo-mroblema na kami lahat sa ticket eh. So, alam mo na kumbaga andiyan na talaga 'yung Clasico. Dumating na siya."

The crowd came alive in the fourth quarter when Ginebra mounted a brief comeback, but the Gin Kings were almost immediately halted by the Hotshots thanks to big buckets from Paul Lee and Rome dela Rosa.

Victolero was unbothered that most of the fans in attendance were pro-Ginebra.

"As long as na bumabalik na 'yung mga fans natin, andiyan na, nagiging active na ulit sila, thank you very much for all the fans na pumunta dito, nanood sa kanilang mga bahay-bahay," he said.

The Magnolia coach gave full credit to his players, who were locked in from the opening tip and were in control virtually all the way.

"Medyo maganda lang 'yung nilaro ng mga bata. I'm thankful to them, kasi they executed well on our game plan, on both ends of the floor," he said.

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