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Magnolia Hotshots secure finals berth by beating Phoenix, 89-79, in semis Game 4

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GO-TO-MARK. Mark Barroca leads Magnolia Hotshots’ 89-79 Game 4 victory over the Phoenix Super LPG at the Mall of Asia Arena (MOA) on January 31, 2024, to secure a finals berth against the San Miguel Beermen in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup. PBA PHOTO

Magnolia Hotshots secured their spot in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals by defeating the Phoenix Super LPG, 89-79, at the Mall of Asia Arena (MOA) on January 31, 2024. 

The Hotshots managed to avoid any fourth-quarter meltdown, with Mark Barroca leading the charge with 21 points.

The game started with Magnolia setting the tone early, establishing a 17-point lead they eventually stretched to an impressive 21 points. 

Tyler Bey, Paul Lee, and Ian Sangalang played crucial roles in maintaining stability as the Fuel Masters mounted a spirited fightback. 

After bouncing back from a tough 85-103 defeat in Game 3, Magnolia sealed the best-of-five semifinals duel with a 3-1 victory.

Despite dealing with a right hamstring strain, Mark Barroca showcased his resilience by sinking a crucial triple that extended Magnolia’s lead to 83-68 with just under four minutes remaining. 

Bey contributed 20 points and grabbed equal rebounds, while Sangalang came off the bench to add 12 points. 

Although Lee only scored six points, his four assists in the fourth quarter were instrumental in securing baskets for Bey and Sangalang, securing the wire-to-wire victory.

Looking ahead to the finals against San Miguel Beer, Magnolia coach Chito Victolero praised Phoenix’s efforts and acknowledged the tough battle they faced. 

He credited Phoenix coach Jamike Jarin and the entire organization for a commendable performance, emphasizing the intensity of the matchup.

Reflecting on the lessons learned from their Game 3 loss, where they were outscored 65-34 in the second half, Victolero highlighted the importance of composure and sticking to their defensive strengths. 

The halftime discussions proved crucial as Magnolia weathered Phoenix’s attempts to stage a comeback.

Phoenix, refusing to bow out easily, initiated a 13-4 run at the start of the third period, cutting Magnolia’s lead to just 51-53. 

However, Magnolia responded with a balanced 17-2 surge, led by Bey’s three-point play, reclaiming a comfortable 70-53 lead.

Despite Sean Manganti’s efforts leading another Phoenix uprising in the final quarter, the Hotshots remained steady in the endgame. 

Sangalang and Bey continued to contribute crucial points, with Lee providing leadership on the court.

Johnathan Williams led Phoenix with an impressive double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. 

RR Garcia came off the bench with 15 points, while Jazul and Manganti each contributed at least 10 points. However, Jason Perkins struggled, managing only six points.

With their victory over the Fuel Masters, Magnolia now eagerly anticipates the finals clash against San Miguel Beer on February 2 in a race-to-four series. 

The stage is set for a thrilling championship showdown between two formidable teams vying for PBA glory.

The boxscores:

Magnolia 89 – Barroca 21, Bey 20, Sangalang 12, Dionisio 8, Dela Rosa 7, Lee 6, Tratter 6, Jalalon 5, Laput 4, Ahanmisi 0, Reavis 0, Abueva 0.

Phoenix 79 – Williams 17, Garcia 15, Jazul 11, Manganti 10, Perkins 6, Alejandro 5, Tio 5, Muyang 4, Tuffin 3, Rivero 3, Soyud 0, Mocon 0, Verano 0, Camacho 0.

Quarters: 29-16; 49-38; 70-53; 89-79.

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