Paul Lee took over and exploded in the fourth quarter to shoot Magnolia over San Miguel, 100-90, and strengthen the Hotshots' chances at the second seed in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup, Sunday at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Lee scored 18 of his 32 points in the final frame, made 9-of-15 shots, hit three triples, and collected five assists and four boards for Magnolia, which will enter the playoffs with an 8-3 record after winning its last assignment in the elimination round.
"We did very well. We executed our game plan and we did what we needed to do: be consistent," Lee said in Filipino after the game.
Ian Sangalang also posted a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double to go with three dimes in the crucial victory for a Hotshots team that can climb to no. 2 and bag the second twice-to-beat advantage if Meralco (7-2) loses both of its final matchups.
"We told ourselves that this game is in our hands, it's within our control, and that the games of other teams are not in our control," noted head coach Chito Victolero. "Now, we'll wait. We did our jobs and we did what we had to do. If it's our destiny to get that no. 2 spot, so be it. If not, at least we still played a very good game and we can carry that into the playoffs."
Both teams were tied at 75 with 8:31 left in the game before Lee began his assault to push the Hotshots, scoring all but four of their next 22 points over the next five minutes for a commanding 97-84 advantage with 2:40 remaining. Magnolia went on to cruise the rest of the way.
Jerrick Ahanmisi also put up 11 points and three treys for the Hotshots, who also got key contributions from Mark Barroca (nine points), Calvin Abueva (eight markers, 10 boards, four assists, one block), Aris Dionisio (eight and two threes), and Kyle Pascual (seven) in the win.
"This was the start of our playoffs," remarked their mentor. "I thank the boys for committing and giving their all. San Miguel was a tough matchup and their talent runs deep, so we really needed to band together on defense and grind it out for 48 minutes. The credit goes to them."
Magnolia will take a break for at least a week before determining their quarterfinals draw. The Bolts hold the tiebreaker owing to their massive comeback win in the clutch over the Hotshots last September 1. "We have a break tomorrow, but we will start our preparations on Tuesday. I think we need to prepare mentally and physically. That's very important going into the playoffs," said Victolero.
San Miguel, on the other hand, slipped to 6-4 and crashed out of the race for the twice-to-beat berth.
The Beermen's effort was fronted by CJ Perez, who put up 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and a steal in 33 minutes off the bench. Arwind Santos added 18 markers to go with four triples, seven boards, and two dimes, while Marcio Lassiter and Von Pessumal both finished with 13.
Magnolia 100 - Lee 32, Sangalang 15, Ahanmisi 11, Barroca 9, Dionisio 8, Abueva 8, Pascual 7, Reavis 4, Corpuz 4, Jalalon 2, Dela Rosa 0, Brill 0, De Leon 0.
San Miguel 90 - Perez 20, Santos 18, Pessumal 13, Lassiter 13, Zamar 9, Fajardo 8, Tautuaa 5, Ross 4, Gotladera 0, Comboy 0, Gamalinda 0, Sena 0.
Quarters: 25-14, 47-39, 66-65, 100-90.
- Lee (18) actually scored more than all the Hotshots combined (16) in the fourth quarter.
- Magnolia handily beat SMB on the glass, 51-40.
- Magnolia has played its last elimination round game and now awaits its quarterfinals matchup.
- San Miguel vs. Alaska next week; schedule to be released on Tuesday, Sep. 21