Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok didn’t win Game 1 of the PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven titular series. San Miguel Beer lost it.
The Beermen led by 20 points sometime in the third quarter and by 14, 89-75 the end of the same period and looked on the way to wrapping up the contest running away until their top gun forgot what they started and ended up instead at the losing end, 105-102, giving away the victory everybody expected to be theirs.
June Mar Fajardo exemplified the Beermen’s monumental collapse managing only six points of his total 31 points for the night in the fourth period even as he committed half of his evening high 11 turnovers in the same span.
In contrast, Ian Sngalang, one of the three men Magnolia coach Chito Victolero assigned to contain the 6-10 Fajardo, had 14 big points in the final 12 minutes as he along with rookie Robert Herndon single-handedly beat the entire three-time defending champions to the draw.
The prized recruit from Globalport at the start of the play-for-pay’s 43rd season, who was fielded in only in the fourth, jumped and drove for eight points making mincemeat of the Beermen’s half-hearted defense.
A two-point contribution each from speedy Jio Jalalon, defense-oriented Raffy Reavis and Paul Lee accounted for 30 of the Hotshots’ total output in the pay-off period, more than enough to ovehaul, SMB’s measly 14 points, also in the fourth.
Alex Cabagnot, the guy the Beermen hoped to create offensive situations for them, was the one shooting and was actually succeeding in thwarting the Hotshots’ initial title pretensions, with 25 points going into the fourth, but was nowhere to be found when his team needed him most making only two.
So were Marcio Lassiter, who had 15 points after the first 36 minutes of play but could only add five the rest of the way, and Arwind Santos, who heaved from behind the arc for 18 points in the same stretch only to run out of gas for two points.
No other Beermen coach Leo Austria fielded were around to help in their cause.
Asked if he has already found solution to the myth that was Fajardo on the way to win the series and the Hotshots first All-Filipino crown in four years, Victolero still downplayed his chances.
“We’re still the underdogs,” Victolero, who is in his first finals appearance since assuming the coaching job for the Hotshots last year, said during the traditional post-game meeting with media men.
“Kahit ano pa ang sabihin natin from the start, wala namang maniniwala na mananalo kami dito eh. But we tried, “ he added. “Like tonight, we’ll just be trying our best on Sunday and we’ll see.”
Victolero said he Hotshots defended well in Game 1 and it will be the same lethal weapon the Hotshot will be exploiting when the two sister teams meet anew in Game 2 Sunday at the MOA Arena.
Reavis exemplified the Hotshots’ stonewall defense employed the entire game when he clearly blocked what could have been Santos’ game-tying attempt from 21 feet, triggering a wild celebrations from a Magnolia team which last won the All-Filipino plum in 2014 en route to the Purefoods franchise’s first Grand Slam victory
“When you lead by 20 points in a championship game and you end up losing the game, it’s very disappointing,” said Austria could only murmur following the Beermen’s loss.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven championship series begins at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.