Home Editors' Picks Hotshots and Bolts out to protect PBA Governors’ Cup quarter order

Hotshots and Bolts out to protect PBA Governors’ Cup quarter order

By Olmin Leyba

PROTECTING the quarterfinal order is the theme for No. 1 Magnolia and No. 4 Meralco as they set out to get their passes to the Philippine Basketball Associaiton (PBA) Governors’ Cup semifinals on first take on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Coming on the heels of the other two higher seeds getting dragged to a sudden death, the twice-to-beat Hotshots and Bolts go for a quick disposal of No. 8 Phoenix and No. 5 San Miguel Beer (SMB), respectively, in their own end of the Last-8.

Game time for Magnolia-Phoenix tussle is at 6 p.m. following the Meralco-San Miguel Beer grudge match at 3 p.m.

It has been a generally stellar run for the Hotshots, who posted a leading 9-2 card on the way to the playoffs. But one of their red marks was a 101-100 setback at the end of the elims to Blackwater, a team that previously lost a record 29 consecutive games since October 2020.

This shocking defeat, coach Chito Victolero stressed, should fire up the Hotshots even more in the bigger battles ahead.

“I know my players, they will be ready for the playoffs,” he said. “That game was a learning experience for us. We should stay hungry, stay focused and have that attitude coming to war.”

That can also embolden the Fuel Masters into further believing that an upset of their powerhouse rival is very doable. Moreover, coach Topex Robinson’s charges carry some momentum from the 101-98 victory over NorthPort in the playoff for the eighth spot last Sunday.

Meralco, meanwhile, intends to take full advantage of its win-once edge to score an emotional payback and semis-clincher against SMB.

“We owe them. They beat us, we (will) beat them,” said Bolts import Tony Bishop.

The last time they met, Shabazz Muhammad torched Meralco with 57 points as the Beermen rallied from 26 points down to post a 115-110 caper. Interestingly, Mr. Muhammad was the Bolts’ first-choice import who backed out but eventually landed at SMB.

I look at it (SMB matchup) as we have to beat them once,” said Meralco mentor Norman Black. “I can’t bring back what happened in that game but obviously, we’d like to watch that game and try to learn from it. But going into this game, you start off 0-0 so that (today’s quarterfinal) will be my focus.”

If successful, Magnolia and Meralco are on their way to a rematch of their Final Four faceoff in the last Philippine Cup, which the Hotshots won in six en route to their runner-up finish to TnT.

Otherwise, they go through a winner-take-all for the semis — just like fellow twice-to-beat squads NLEX and TnT.

The No. 2 Road Warriors fell to a seventh-ranked Alaska Aces team determined to extend its last hurrah, 93-79, while the Tropang Giga took a 104-92 loss to No. 6 defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel last Wednesday.