Magnolia Aiming to be Extra Careful with Winless Kia

(Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)

Statistically, the Magnolia Hotshots are the better team heading into their first game of the year against the team which has yet to win a single game this conference, the Kia Picanto. 
Even though they are heavily favored to handle the Picanto their 3rd straight defeat this afternoon, the Hotshots, specifically Coach Chito Victolero has said it that they are aiming to be extra careful against the still winless Picanto who have a new coach and a new system to follow. 
After all, Ricky Dandan, who took over following the resignation of Chris Gavina, aims to follow Joe Lipa’s ways of the playing conventional style of basketball. And if you’re fortunate enough to witness Joe Lipa coach during his heydays, then you know Magnolia is up against a much different team.
After bowing down to the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings on Christmas Day, the Magnolia Hotshots are gunning for their second win in 3 games as the 16-day hiatus in between games hopefully enabled injured stars to heal from their injuries, specifically Jio Jalalon who has just been cleared to play. In addition to this, Victolero also hopes that PJ Simon and Marc Pingris to come out better after struggling against Ginebra. If the stars of Magnolia can pound early on, chances are Kia is already in a big trouble.
On the other hand, Ricky Dandan only had 7 practices with the Picanto after taking over at the helm. Installing a new system is among his priorities early on but according to the former head coach of the UP Fighting Maroons in the UAAP, his number 1 focus, for now, is to make sure that the Picanto becomes a solidified team before they can start moving forward.

Conclusion

It’s good that Chito Victolero and his boys aren’t taking the Picanto for granted as it will be a big embarrassment if they are to lose to Kia today. After all, who would want to be defeated by the worst team in the league right now?
On the other hand, a 0-2 record doesn’t really translate to the amount of talent that Kia. After all, they almost beat the NLEX Road Warriors back in their first game of the new a season. ALMOST. Having said this, Chito Victolero is definitely correct in saying that Kia is indeed, a very dangerous team. 

Lee Explodes for 30 Points in Magnolia’s Debut Win

Yep! The Lee-thal Weapon still has it

(Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
One team is entering the new season under a new team with the hopes of bringing something new to the league. The other team is hoping to begin anew as they were coming off one of their worst seasons in recent memory.
Despite missing key players to injury, the Magnolia Hotshots were able to rely on their defense to win their first game of the season against the Alaska Aces, 108-95.

Slow Start

The game started off slow for both teams as the Alaska Aces held a 6-5 edge with 3 minutes into the game.A few possessions and fouls later, the Magnolia Hotshots were already down 17-8 as Jvee Casio knocked down a three-pointer, forcing Chito Victolero to call a timeout with under 6 minutes left in the first quarter.
After a Mark Barroca basket. Jeron Teng completed a three-point play on the other end to give the Aces a 10-point lead. The Hotshots were visibly struggling as they were also dealing with the absences of their key players due to injury. Despite their sluggish start, Magnolia was able to stay close after Paul Lee drained a buzzer-beating trey to make it 26-21 at the end of the first quarter.

The Chickens Started Flying in the Second Quarter

After all, the Magnolia Hotshots are the “Pambansang Manok”, right? Just when the Aces were beginning to re-establish a double-digit lead, the Hotshots clamped down on D and went on a scoring run to make 35-30 with 9 minutes to play in the first half. Two consecutive inside baskets have finally enabled the Hotshots to take the lead, 36-35. 
Magnolia was able to slash into the sloppy defense of Alaska as their lead extended to 8 points, at 50-42 with under 3 minutes to play in the quarter. Kyle Pascual nailed a free throw later to give the Hotshots a 10-point lead as he added another lay-up to make it 56-44. The Hotshots walked into their locker with a 10-point advantage, at 57-47- thanks to their improved field goal shooting which was 55% for the first half and their defense which limited Alaska to only 2 for 10 shooting from the three-point line. 

The Beast got Unleashed Early in the Third. BUT

Calvin Abueva scored 8 points in the opening minutes of the second quarter to bring down the deficit to 6 points only for Magnolia to bring it back to 9 on a three-point shot. An offensive putback by Ian Sangalang put the Hotshots at 70-59 with under 7 minutes to play as the Aces were slowly fading anew.
As turnovers and defensive lapses began to pile up, the Aces saw themselves down by 14 points after Mark Barroca added another inside shot. Add Alaska’s inability to get the defensive rebounds to their woes plus an injury on the big man, Vic Manuel.  Paul Lee later drained a long bomb to put Magnolia by 15 points as PJ Simon added another trey to make it 87-671 heading into the final two minutes of the third quarter.  Both teams entered the final quarter with Magnolia holding an 87-74 lead.

The Aces Tried to Come Back. Tried

The Aces got within 11 points in the first 2 minutes of the 4th quarter thanks to their aggressiveness. Carl Cruz’s basket pushed the lead down to  9 only to watch Robert Herdon complete a 3-point play to stop the Hotshots’ bleeding. Another three, this time from Justin Melton brought the lead back up to 16, at 97-81.
The lead went down to as low as 8 points with under 4 minutes to play as Alaska forced Magnolia to difficult shots and took advantage of their opportunities on the break. That was before Paul Lee hit another three to make it a double-digit lead again. From that point on, Magnolia slowly wasted away the clock as Robert Herndon added another basket to put the game away.

The Numbers: The Good and the Ugly

Paul Lee scored 30 points off the bench to go along with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Riego Gamalinda added 15 points while Ian Sangalang chipped in 13. Magnolia shot better from the field all game long, making 51% of their shot attempts while limiting Alaska to only 46% field goal shooting. Magnolia also forced 22  turnovers.
Calvin Abueva had 20 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists for the Aces but also had 5 of the 22 turnovers of Alaska. Vic Manuel also had 20 points while Jeron Teng added 16 points in his debut. 

The scores:

MAGNOLIA 108 – Lee 30, Gamalinda 15, Sangalang 13, Dela Rosa 10, Simon 9, Herndon 9, K. Pascual 9, Barroca 6, Melton 3, Ramos 2, Brondial 2.

ALASKA 95 – Abueva 20, Manuel 20, Teng 16, Casio 10, R. Pascual 7, Enciso 5, Exciminiano 5, Banchero 4, Thoss 3, J. Pascual 2, Cruz 2, Magat 1, Racal 0.

Quarter Scores:

21-26, 57-47, 87-74, 108-95.

By the Numbers: 4 Things That Went Wrong for the Slumping Star

Because basically, everything did go wrong for the Hotshots

Here are the four main reasons to their demise however

Mark Barroca was the lone starter who scored in double figures. (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
If you watched last night’s Game 2 of the best-of-5 semifinal series between the Meralco Bolts and the Star Hotshots, then you can just imagine how frustrated Chito Victolero is right now. 
To begin with, Victolero was already frustrated with how the referees handled the game which saw 21 fouls called against the Bolts and 18 against the Hotshots. The Bolts on the other hand, were able to regain their dominant selves as they continuously pounded in on the Hotshots’ struggles on both ends of the court as they are ONE win away from another Finals appearance after a 98-74 victory last night. 
With Game 3 happening tomorrow, with their season on the line, the Star Hotshots have a choice: Improve or, go on an early vacation.
To help you explain the frustrations of Chito Victolero and the rest of the Star coaching staff, this basketball pundit listed down the numbers that doomed the Hotshots against the league-leading Bolts:

0 – Zero Points for Star Guards

Let’s start with the simplest reason why Star lost last night. Paul Lee had 0 points. So was Jio Jalalon. So was PJ Simon. Lee, for one, only attempted one field goal that missed and was taken out of the game the rest of the way, playing for barely 4 minutes. Jalalon, another bench trooper who was supposed to be backing up Mark Barroca, went 0 of 6 in the field. The result: the Star Hotshots still have 0 WINS in this series.

1 – Only One from the Rainbow Country

Another reason why the Meralco Bolts were able to run away from the Hotshots early on was the fact that Star, as a team, only made ONE of their 8 three-point attempts in the first half. That player who made that lone long-distance bomb was the journeyman, Aldrich Ramos who finished with 8 points in 15 minutes of action. 
By endgame, the Hotshots finished with a horrible outing from beyond the arc, making 7 of their 24 shots from that area. In addition to this, only ONE starter managed to score in double figures and that starter was none other than Mark Barroca who led the Hotshots with 16 points. The result: Star is ONE loss away from another early vacation.

5 – Five Fast-break Points, Not too fast  

Unlike in the early stages of Game 1 when Star was able to run and score on the break, the Hotshots only scored 5 fast break points during the entire Game 2, another visible sign that they weren’t in sync all game long. In addition to this, Star’s defense allowed 5 Meralco players to score in double figures, led by Allen Durham, Jared Dillinger and Ranidel De Ocampo who all scored 18 points apiece. Baser Amer and Chris Newsome provided the spark in the backcourt with their 16 and 10 points respectively. 

9 – The horrible performance of Acox

One player who was visibly struggling in both games was none other than Star import, Kris Acox. In Game 2, Acox only managed 9 points on another 4 of 12 field goal shooting. If Star wants to extend this series into a Game 4, they will need Acox to escape that horrible shooting slump that he endured in the first two games of the series and score more because if not, Allen Durham will continue to “eat” Acox alive every time they slug it out in the court. 

Star, Acox Recovered on Time to Beat NLEX, Potential Top 4 Finish If…

Star now assured of a Top 4 spot pending Meralco win

Acox recovered from early slump help Star win. (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
If anything, this is one of the few conferences in the history of the PBA when the quotient system has been used to the fullest and since Ginebra lost last night against Talk N Text and Rain or Shine defeated Blackwater the game earlier, the Star Hotshots now have the opportunity to snatch a Top 4 finishing position entering the quarterfinals. They only needed to win against the NLEX Road Warriors by at least 5 points, and hope that the Meralco Bolts win against the San Miguel Beerman later on.
They fell behind early on. They came back. Their opponents battled back. By the end of the game, it was the Star Hotshots and their hot shooting from outside as they took control of their own fate by beating the NLEX Road Warriors, 100-93- a margin that the Star needed should the Beerman would win later on.
The NLEX Road Warriors of Coach Yeng Guiao wanted a shot of a Top 4 finish and the twice-to-beat advantage during the quarterfinals that comes with it and it showed earlier in the game as the Road Warriors, led by Aaron Fuller held an 8-point lead after the first quarter, at 25-17. And they did that by forcing the Star Hotshots into difficult shots and even into making silly turnovers. They even held Star scoreless for the almost 5 minutes to start the 2nd quarter before Mark Barroca ended the drought with a jumper. A trey by Kevin Alas later pushed the lead to 15 points only to be answered by Justin Melton who also drained a three-pointer of his own.

The teams went into halftime with NLEX only leading by 8 points. NLEX held onto the lead for the majority of the first half after limiting the offensive output of Star’s import, Kristofer Acox who only had 2 points on 1 of 6 shooting.

Compared to his counterpart, Fuller already had 8 points of his own to go along with his 9 rebounds. But what doomed the Hotshots in the first half alone is their incapacity to make most of their shot attempts and to make things worse, Star, as a team, only made 1 of their 5 free throw attempts. One of the few things that kept Star in the game during the first half is their shooting from beyond the arc where they made 5 out of their 12 attempts as compared to the Road Warriors who only made 4 of their 15 attempts from downtown.

A 5-0 scoring run by Star brought the lead down to 44-41 to start the second half as NLEX committed careless mistakes to compliment their inability to make shots early in the 3rd.Acox then began to make his presence felt by forcing his way on the inside as Star slowly chipped away at the lead. Aldrich Ramos later drained a trey to tie the game at 51 apiece with under 8 minutes to go in the quarter. PJ Simon later followed that up by converting a 3-point play to give the lead back to Star for the first time since the early stages of the game.

Both teams went on to exchange of made baskets as NLEX managed to bring the backup to 6 only to watch Star erased that lead. The Hotshots took the lead in the dying minutes of the quarter and by the end of the 3rd, Star’s lead was up 75-69 after Jio Jalalon drained a long-distance trey to beat the 3rd quarter buzzer.

Juami Tiongson began the final quarter with a 3-pointer and a difficult lay-up only for Paul Lee to scored on a catch-and-shoot trey with under 10 minutes to go. NLEX struggled to make shots as the Hotshots pushed the lead to 8 points on Acox’s inside shot with 7 minutes to play.

From that point on, it’s an up-and-down battle as Star answered every basket that NLEX made until Justin Melton drained a three-pointer to bring the lead back to 8 with 5 minutes to spare in the game. Paul Lee put Star up by 12 after scoring on a well-contested lay-up with under 4 minutes to go on the clock. A few possessions later, Alex Mallari drained a much-needed three-point shot and a free throw to bring down the deficit to 8 until Mark Barroca nailed a jumper approaching the final 2-minute mark and followed by another jumper by Paul Lee to put the lead back to 12 with 1:30 to go. Star then blocked NLEX’s next attempt and that was it. Marc Pingris drained a jumper to pull the life out of the Road Warriors as Chito Victolero decided to sub out his import, knowing that they’ve already accomplished what they needed to accomplish.

PJ Simon led the Hotshots with 16 points while making both of his attempts from beyond the arc. Paul Lee ended a series of struggling games to finish the game with 15 points Acox recovered from his miserable first half to score 14 points. Mark Barroca provided the spark off the bench with 13 points- many of which were scored in the 4th quarter. On the other side of the fence, Aaron Fuller finished the eliminations with 16 points and 17 rebounds while Alex Mallari added 13 points.

Throughout the game, it was Star’s three-pointers that kept them within striking distance in the first half and it was also Star’s three-pointers that won the game for them as they combined for making 11 out of their 20 attempts from rainbow country.

Scores:
Star – 101
Simon 16, Lee 15, Acox 14, Ramos 14, Barroca 12, dela Rosa 8, Melton 6, Pingris 6, Sangalang 4, Jalalon 3, Brondial 2, Reavis 0, Mendoza 0, Abundo 0, Pascual 0, Gamalinda 0,
NLEX – 93
Fuller 16, Mallari 13, Fornacier 12, Alas 9, Al-Hussaini 9, Quinahan 9, Lastimosa 8, Tiongson 5, Taulava 5, Villanueva 3, Soyud 3, Baguio 1, Ighalo 0, Rios 0, Gotladera 0
Quarter Scores:
25-17, 44-36, 69-75, 17-25, 36-44, 75-69, 101-93