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Magnolia Hotshots slip past NorhPort Batang Pier on Calvin Abueva's game-winner

Talk about a wild finish.

Calvin Abueva buried the game-winning basket in the final two seconds to complete Magnolia's comeback from 17 down against NorthPort, 90-89, in a tense win that also sent the Hotshots to the quarterfinals of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Friday at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

Abueva found himself open underneath the basket and hit the short stab off the timeout to lift the Hotshots, who crawled back from that huge first quarter hole to improve to 7-3 and remain in contention for one of two coveted twice-to-beat berths.

The dagger also negated a big play in the previous possession from Kevin Ferrer, who hit a driving layup and drew the foul off of a broken set to put the Batang Pier ahead by one, 89-88, with 3.9 seconds left.

Ferrer, however, missed the free throw and left the door open for Magnolia, who drew the play off the timeout to steal the win.

"That was a designed play, a back screen to Calvin," coach Chito Victolero said after the game. "If it wasn't available, Paul [Lee] was our next option. Good thing we were able to execute. Huge thanks also to Rome (dela Rosa) for having the courage and the heart to throw it to Calvin."

Abueva finished with 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting to go with five rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks off the bench for Magnolia.

Ian Sangalang led the charge for the Hotshots by posting 26 points, 10 boards, two dimes and a block before fouling out late, while Lee bucked another cold shooting night (5-for-16) to finish with 13, five assists, three rebounds and a steal.

Dela Rosa and Mark Barroca also added 10 each.

"We talked about our focus and what's at stake in this game. This was our chance to go to the quarters, and then we'd also have a chance to take the No. 2 spot. We really prepared for this and challenged ourselves to get this W," Victolero remarked.

Drama filled the final stretch of the clash as neither team gave an inch in the last minute of action.

After Sangalang's one-hander put Magnolia ahead 88-87 with 39 seconds remaining, the Hotshots put themselves in a position to put the game out of reach after forcing a 24-second shot clock violation on NorthPort in the following possession.

Greg Slaughter blocked Barroca's chance at a game-sealing jumper, but Sean Anthony mistakenly called a timeout that NorthPort didn't have in the final 7.3 seconds, thereby sending Lee to the line for the technical free throw.

Lee, however, missed at the line allowing the Batang Pier to try and execute the play that coach Pido Jarencio drew up in the dead ball situation.

Ferrer saved what initially looked liked a botched play and put NorthPort ahead, but Abueva later saved Magnolia with the clincher.

This is the second Magnolia victory that came off of a play drawn by Victolero off a timeout. Last July 21, the Hotshots also managed to squeak out a win in the clutch after Sangalang converted on a Lee pass in the final possession against the Alaska Aces.

The win also marks a successful return for the Hotshots a week after dropping a three-point loss to Rain or Shine last Sep. 10.

"We just stayed positive when we took a break," Sangalang said in Filipino. "We knew that there were a lot of distractions, but we just set our sights on the goal against NorthPort and in our next matchup on Sunday against San Miguel. But that break was good for us because after that, we knew we have a lot of work ahead of us."

Magnolia will look to secure a victory in its last elimination round assignment against the Beermen (5-3), who like the Hotshots are still in the running for the second spot alongside Meralco (6-2).

A win over SMB and two more losses by the Bolts in their last three games would help Victolero's wards officially lock up the twice-to-beat advantage, but the mentor said he and the team are only focusing on the things within their control.

"What's within our control now is our game on Sunday. The other games, like Meralco and San Miguel's assignments, that's not within our control," he commented. "Whatever happens, at least we're in the quarters and we have a chance to be in the No. 2 spot. That's what we really aimed for, anyway."

On the other hand, NorthPort slid to 4-5 after a second consecutive loss.

The Batang Pier still drew a big game from Greg Slaughter, who posted 21 points, eight boards and five blocks off the bench in his return from a bacterial infection. Sean Anthony threw in 16 off the pine as well, while Paolo Taha and Jamie Malonzo ended up with 14. Robert Bolick was quiet, though he still managed to reach double-digit scoring with 10 as well as five rebounds and five assists.

THE SCORES

Magnolia 90 - Sangalang 26, Abueva 15, Lee 13, Barroca 10, Dela Rosa 10, Ahanmisi 8, Dionisio 6, Jalalon 2, Corpuz 0, Reavis 0.

NorthPort 89 - Slaughter 21, Anthony 16, Taha 14, Malonzo 14, Bolick 10, Onwubere 4, Lanete 4, Rike 2, Balanza 2, Ferrer 2, Elorde 0, Grey 0.

Quarters: 12-26, 44-47, 68-67, 90-89.

EXTRA DRIBBLES

- This is NorthPort's third defeat in the clutch through a game-winner. The Batang Pier lost on an Arwind Santos jumper in a matchup against San Miguel last July 25 before suffering another heartbreaker five days later after a Christian Standhardinger putback lifted Barangay Ginebra in their game last July 30.

- Magnolia forced NorthPort to commit more turnovers (24) than assists (22).

NEXT GAMES

- NorthPort vs. Rain or Shine on Sunday, Sep. 19, at 2:00 p.m

- Magnolia vs. San Miguel on Sunday at 4:35 p.m