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Magnolia aims to avoid 0-2 hole



Magnolia will shoot for the equalizer whet it battles TNT Tropang Giga in Game 2 of their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup best-of-seven finals series at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

Game 2 is at 6 p.m. with the Hotshots looking to level the series despite the looming absence of star big man Ian Sangalang, who saw very limited minutes after suffering a back spasm during their forgettable 70-88 loss in the series opener late Wednesday.

Sangalang, the frontrunner in the Best Player of the Conference derby together with teammate Calvin Abueva, was a non-factor all game long, finishing with only five points in just 10 minutes of action.

Prior to this flop, the proud son of Pampanga had been averaging 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds to power the Hotshots past Meralco in their best-of-seven semifinal affair last week.

Magnolia coach Chito Victolero admitted that Sangalang’s injury was such a major setback to their campaign against a mighty TNT Tropang Giga squad that held them to a miserable 27.39 percent field goal shooting – the lowest ever in the PBA finals.

Ironically, the Tropang Giga hold the record of having the lowest field goal percentage in the finals with 30.3 percent — or 23-of-76 – that they tallied during Game 3 of their Philippine Cup finals duel against Coca-Cola, which was being mentored by Chot Reyes.

The Hotshots also logged 28 turnovers, giving the Tropang Giga a golden opportunity to mount a 32-point lead, 73-41, in the second period.

With Sangalang riding the bench, no Hotshot stepped up to carry the torch offensively. Paul Lee was held to only 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting while Abueva had a very quiet 11 markers.

“He has back spasms and he is having a hard time doing his usual moves. We’re not sure if Ian can play because we have to manage his injury,” Victolero said raising doubts over the availability of Sangalang in this very crucial Game 2.

“Our staff is looking for possible ways so that he can still play even if he’s just at 75 to 80 percent healthy.”

TNT, meanwhile, will also be marching with a crippled roster.

Veteran Kelly Williams was wheeled out of the court after suffering a hyperextended back while attempting a dunk in the 5:23 mark of the third period.

Reyes said the 39-year-old forward had already been released from the hospital but remains doubtful as he still has to undergo further assessment by their medical staff.

“Doubtful. He was released from the hospital last night, but will consult a specialist today,” Reyes told the Daily Tribune yesterday, wary of turning the series into what happened last year when injury bug bit the Tropang Giga that led to a humiliating loss to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in just five games of their best-of-seven finals series.

Reyes said with or without Williams, they will go all out and play their hearts out to erect a 2-0 lead that will put them very close to their first title in six years.

“Our entire focus is how to get better. How can we get better in Game 2 than we were in Game 1?” Reyes said, adding that he will bank anew on the hot hands of Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario and rookie Mikey Williams, who knocked down five treys en route to finishing with a game-high 21 points.

“We’re sure that they (Magnolia) are going to come back with counter-adjustments in Game 2 so we just need to be ready.”

Victolero, however, said they couldn’t afford to lose another game as a 0-2 hole would be too deep for them overcome.

“We need to make sure that we will improve today in our preparations and we will move forward together,” Victolero said.

“We didn’t play the Magnolia Hotshots brand of basketball that’s why we lost. We need to learn from our mistakes and let’s play hard again on Friday.”