By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

WITH THEIR BEST-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series tied at two games apiece, the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok and Rain or Shine (ROS) Elasto Painters go for the lead in their rebooted pairing in Game Five today at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

Set for 7 p.m., Magnolia, having won the last two games, looks to extend their series charge back in the fifth game while Rain or Shine tries to wiggle out of its current skid as they angle to move one step forward to a championship appearance in the season-opening Philippine Basketball Association tournament.

The Hotshots pulled even in the series after a hard-earned 94-91 victory in Game Four on Monday, which had them needing to hold tight as the Elasto Painters made a ferocious comeback in the fourth period.

Down 16 points as the payoff quarter started, 80-64, Rain or Shine steadily clawed its way back, coming to within one point, 92-91, with four seconds to go in the contest.

But two free throws from Magnolia guard Jio Jalalon and a missed three-point shot from Rain or Shine’s James Yap after preserved the victory for the Hotshots, reducing the series to a best-of-three affair.

Ian Sangalang led Magnolia in the series-tying victory, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds with Paul Lee adding 15 and Mr. Jalalon 12 points.

Mark Barroca, Justine Melton, Rafi Reavis and Rome Dela Rosa also scored in double digits for the Hotshots.

Mr. Yap, meanwhile, led Rain or Shine with 24 markers with rookie Javee Mocon adding 14.

For Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, the win was a very satisfying one for them as everybody stepped up and it was something they hope to duplicate in today’s PBA semifinal game.

“We just tied the series. It’s now a best-of-three. But I’m happy and proud of my players. They stepped up big in this game. We knew we had to come in hard and prepared because this was a crucial game for us. And they used their experience in winning this game. We knew ROS would come back. But a win is a win,” said Mr. Victolero in the postgame press conference following the Game Four.

“We take this and rest and prepare hard for Game Five. We are bracing for a physical game on Wednesday. We will not give up and fight till the end,” he added.

Despite losing their series lead, Rain or Shine remains confident of their chances moving forward, seeing how they showed no giving up even in defeat.

“I’m proud of our team. We were down 16 points to start the fourth period [in Game Four] and still had a chance to win in the end. To compete the way we did, it shows a team that believes in one another. I’m still optimistic. We have a positive mindset and ready to come back,” said Rain or Shine forward Gabe Norwood when asked for his thoughts post-match.

On the part of Elasto Painters coach Caloy Garcia, he said his team needs to adjust to the physicality of the series to better compete with Magnolia.

“We just have to man up with the physicality, adjust to the calls. We just have to find ways to win games. Maybe be more physical. It was a test of character for us and I think we did better in the fourth period [of Game Four],” said the coach, who failed to finish the game after being tossed out in the third period for excessive complaining.