MAGNOLIA rallied behind injured teammates Marc Pingris and Justin Melton as the two served as inspiration in the Hotshots' 99-84 win over NLEX to level their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series Monday night.
Paul Lee and Ian Sangalang came out firing from the get-go and got the Hotshots on the attack mode right away.
Veteran Peter June Simon then sustained the effort by scoring all of his eight points in the payoff period to keep the Road Warriors' repeated rallies.
Lee finished with a game-high 27 points while Sangalang had 15 of his 18 points in the first half for the Hotshots, who lost out Pingris to an ACL injury for the rest of the season, and Melton to a possible hamstring injury that could kept him out of the best-of-seven series now tied at 1-1.
As tribute to the 35-year-old Pingris, the Hotshots wore a patch bearing his no. 15 jersey on top of their playing uniform.
"Yung inspiration na nabibigay niya sa amin, yun ang malaki," said coach Chito Victolero, referring to his veteran big man. "Every now and then nagte-text si Ping at sinasabi niya na gawin itong laro para sa buong team."
"One of my best post defenders and one of my best perimeter players ay nawala. So we're undermanned and the underdog in this series because si Ping at Justine kasama kasi sa rotation ko."
Melton remains day-to-day according to Victolero, and the longer the series drags on, the better chance of him rejoining the Hotshots.
No problem with that as Sangalang (8 rebounds) and Lee (4-of-9 from three-point range) especially, were there to take care of business.
"Nasa attack mode siya, sa start pa lang gusto na niyang manalo," said Victolero of the 29-year-old guard, who was held to just eight points in the Hotshots' 88-87 loss in Game 1.
Magnolia was in control for the most part, and led by as much as 98-80 late in the match.
Mark Barroca also shook off the effects of a sprained ankle to contribute 11 points and six rebounds, while Jio Jalalon added nine points and 10 assists as the two outdueled the Road Warriors' dynamic duo guard of Kevin Alas and rookie Kiefer Ravena to a combined 15 points.
"May isang araw na ganun, maganda ang depensa namin," said Victolero. "We can't stop Kiefer and Kevin but hopefully ma-limit lang naming yun production."
With Ravena and Alas shackled, Alex Mallari took care of business for NLEX with 13 points to share scoring honor with JR Quinahan. (GR)