AFTER losing its PBA Governors Cup crown last Monday, Magnolia is now left with a long off-season ahead.
Coach Chito Victolero intends to make full use of the respite to ponder his next move and dissect the Hotshots’ ill-fated campaign.
“Nakakahinayang,” Victolero said two days after his team’s sorry 97-98 loss to TNT in their quarterfinals duel last Monday.
The win gave the third-seeded KaTropa outright entry to the semifinals while denying the sixth-seeded Hotshots the chance to force a deciding match.
The loss, which came after Magnolia blew as much as a 22-point bulge and a 10-point cushion in the last four minutes, also capped a costly trend for the Hotshots.
In a game against NLEX last Nov. 10, Magnolia had a 26-point spread razed. Against San Miguel Beer roughly a month before, Magnolia got shut out in the last two minutes.
“Madami kaming games na almost controlled na ‘yung game,” noted Victolero. “But mga last two minutes, siguro after three quarters, bumababa iyung energy or ‘yung aming consistency.
“So mga breaks ng game ‘yung talo namin, pero of course kasalanan din namin. Kasi nga, kontrolado na namin then nawawala pa sa amin.”
Resolving that problem is foremost in Victolero’s current agenda.
“Iyun ‘yung bibigyan namin ng emphasis sa aming off-season, how to improve ‘yun,” declared Victolero. “Kasi dati naman wala kaming problema doon, eh. I think kailangan naming balikan iyun, bigyan namin ng emphasis ‘yung endgame situations, mga situationals.”
Victolero already has one finger on such collapses. “More on mental siguro,” he said.
“We had a very good gameplan, na-execute namin. But ang problema hindi namin na-pi-finish iyung game. For this conference only. I don’t know why, but we will figure it out, kung ano dapat naming gawin this off-season.”
Magnolia returns to practice only on the week after the New Year to start gearing up for the new season that kicks off March 1.
The early preparations also include getting Chris Banchero, acquired from Alaska just last Nov. 3, fully acclimated with his new teammates and Victolero’s system.
“Actually, excited nga ako sa pagkakakuha namin kay Banchero, eh,” admitted Victolero.
“Sabi ko nga sa kanya, hindi pa niya gamay o kulang pa sa chemistry. Malaking tulong off-season para lalo niyang makilala mga kasamahan niya. Pero with him naging maganda ikot sa guard rotation namin.”
There is also the matter of how Magnolia will use its No. 9 pick overall in the rookie draft set Dec. 8.
“May meeting kami ng coaching staff before the draft, then we will try to figure out kung ano kulang ng team, kung ano’ng player, anong posisyon,” related Victolero. “Pag-uusapan namin, then titingnan namin sa draft.
“We will try to look at the best possible talent, but also kung ano kulang namin. Sihuro mga forward spot o center spot hanapin namin. Pero pag-uusapan pa namin.”