May 11, 2019

Hotshots try to end Beermen's four-year all-Filipino reign

After surviving the San Miguel Beermen and "Spiderman" in Game Five, the Magnolia Pambansang Manok Hotshots look to foil another comeback try by SMB and end its four-year reign in the league's most prestigious tourney.

The Hotshots imposed their identity as a tough-as-nail defensive team in Games One and Three but the Beermen fought back mightily in Games Two and Four.

Back in command after an 88-86 nail-biter behind the buzzer-beating game-winner by Mark Barroca Friday night, the Hotshots hope to finally nail back-to-back triumphs to close out the nip-and-tuck series and reclaim the PBA Philippine Cup crown the Purefoods/San Mig Food franchise last won in 2014.

Magnolia takes its first of two cracks at the coveted title at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Hotshots know it's tough to finish off the Beermen but promise to do what it takes to complete a great tale of fightbacks all tournament long.

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"Closing out a series is the hardest thing to do, most especially against a team like San Miguel, but we're positive if we follow the game plan, help one another, and of course play defense, then we'll have a good chance," said Magnolia star guard Paul Lee, who promises to play through injured shoulder to be able to help his team in any way he can.

Having survived all tough challenges in the tourney, Magnolia coach Chito Victolero is confident they can pull through and avenge their 1-4 loss to the Beermen in last year's all-Filipino finals.

"For this group, as long as we work hard together, we can do it," said Victolero, amazed by the effort shown by his troops in the eventful Game Five disrupted by the stunt pulled by a streaker dressed in a Spiderman uniform.

The Hotshots lost momentum on the stoppage caused by "Spiderman" but recovered in time and squeezed through on Barroca's buzzer-beater.

"I love the maturity of these guys, the experience we got from last year and last conference certainly helped us. We battled a lot in these kinds of situation before so they know how to win," said Victolero of the stuffs shown by the Hotshots Friday night.

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The challenge now for the Hotshots is how to make it two in a row over the Beermen or, if necessary, win a decider on Wednesday.

The Beermen express confidence they can force a deciding Game Seven as they have overcome tougher adversities in the past.

Of course, there's their "Beer-acle" feat in 2016.

"Kung positive sila, positive din kami," said San Miguel ace behemoth June Mar Fajardo.

"They still need one more win at hindi namin basta-basta ibibigay iyon sa kanila," Fajardo added.

SMB coach Leo Austria, however, said they have to shoot better if they're to foil Magnolia's crack at a follow-up to its Governors Cup title run. (SB)