MAGNOLIA did just enough to hold off Mikey Williams and the rest of the TNT crew Friday to eke out a 92-88 victory and even up their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals duel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots unleashed a mini-surge spanning the last two quarters to post as much as a 19-point, 77-58 lead before leaning on their veterans in weathering the Tropang Giga's fightback in the closing minutes.
As a result, Magnolia neutralized TNT's 108-96 win last Wednesday and turned the contest into a best-of-five.
Not after a big scare from TNT, which rallied behind Williams and Castro in making a close game of it.
"Hindi naman namin talaga ma-i-stop si Mikey, kumbaga ma-limit lang namin," said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero. "'Yun lang ang goal namin, 'yung points niya, 'yung contributions niya. Once na nag-init talaga siya tuloy-tuloy."
Indeed, Williams eluded the alternating defense of Rome dela Rosa and Adrian Wong to explode for 25 of his gamehigh 28 points in the second half while getting plenty of help chiefly from Castro, who added 13 of his 17 in the last two frames, as the Tropa made it an 85-90 count, still 1:08 left in the game.
Things got really dicey for the Hotshots when Kelly Williams boomed in a 3 of his own to pull the Tropa within just 88-90.
Mark Barroca and Calvin Abueva, however, each canned a charity inside the last two seconds, icing the game.
After scoring just seven points in the opener, Barroca had a big bounce back game with 22 points - 16 of those in the second half - on top of five rebounds with Ian Sangalang lacing his own 22-point, eight-rebound output with a follow-up and a short stab that helped Magnolia keep a 90-84 lead, still 1:29 to go.
Abueva had his usual solid game for the Hotshots with 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists and even had a triple to beat the third quarter buzzer and spark an 11-0 run that resulted in the game's biggest difference.
"It's all about team effort and team defense. It was a total team effort, I'm very proud of my players," said Victolero, whose side held TNT to just 29 points and Williams to a 1-of-8 field shooting in the first two quarters. (NC)
Magnolia 92 - Barroca 22, Sangalang 20, Abueva 18, Lee 10, Reavis 9, Wong 5, Jalalon 4, Dela Rosa 2, Laput 2, Dionisio 0.
TNT 88 -M.Williams 28, Castro 17, Erram 13, Pogoy 11, Rosario 10, K.Williams 6, Montalbo 3, Khobuntin 0, Alejandro 0, Marcelo 0, Ganuelas-Rosser 0.
Quarters: 18-12, 39-29, 69-58, 92-88