TAKING over from Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang dished out a strong performance and led Magnolia to an 83-76 victory over NorthPort last night in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena in Angeles City.
Bucking nagging back pains, Sangalang scattered 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds he spiked with a couple of clutch plays in the endgame that helped point the Hotshots to their fifth straight win and a 6-4 card overall.
Lee averaged 29 points in Magnolia’s last three games, but partly took the day off when he scored only 14 this time. But he still contributed in a big way with a game-high eight assists.
Earlier, Rain or Shine got back on track with an 82-71 victory over Blackwater and narrowed the number of teams in contention for the last eight.
Javee Mocon had a big bounce-back game with 19 points and 13 rebounds to spearhead the Elasto Painters in snapping out of a three-game slide and into the thick of the fight for a berth in the quarterfinals with a 5-4 slate.
The loss was Blackwater’s sixth straight as it plummeted to a 2-7 record and out of contention for the quarterfinals along with NorthPort and Terrafirma as they all cannot reach five wins.
After playing four games in five days, Magnolia takes a welcome break before winding up the eliminations against Blackwater on Wednesday, needing to win to avoid any complications and nab a quarterfinals berth.
The loss was NorthPort’s fourth straight and eighth in nine games in all, notwithstanding Christian Standhardinger dishing off another powerful performance with 18 points and 17 rebounds.
Kevin Ferrer also had 18 points for Batang Pier, whose charge from a 20-point deficit lost steam in the stretch.
“I took on the responsibility to step up para manalo sa game na ito,” said Mocon, who totaled only 13 points in those three straight losses but made all his nine shots from inside the arc this time around.
“Kasi ito ang crucial, if we want to make it to the quarterfinals,” added Mocon.
Coach Caloy Garcia was simply relieved his team managed to find ways to win.
“Credit to the players. That three-game losing streak started to compound pressure. Sabi ko nga sa kanila ang nawala sa amin enjoyment of the game… siguro nagkaroon kami ng konting doubts ‘cause we’re not making any shots,” said Garcia.
“So we just focused on shooting during practice and I told them to just grind it out in these last three games Kasi puro kami back-to-back games.”
Rain or Shine’s last two games are against TNT tomorrow and Phoenix Super LPG the day after.
The E-Painters may also have to engage in those battles without three key players.
With James Yap already sitting out the Blackwater game due to a calf injury, Rey Nambatac also suffered a right ankle sprain early in the second period while Beau Belga also got injured going to the last four minutes.
Good thing Rain or Shine still kept its offensive groove going and still made the needed stops in the end.
Mac Belo’s 15 points paced the Elite, who still tried to put up a fight despite falling behind by as many as 20 points but still fell way short.