Lethal Hot­shots

Comp­ton, Alaska not taking any chances against moun­tain-scal­ing semi­fi­nal foes

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - SPORTS - @son­rdINQ By Deni­son Rey A. Dalu­pang

Paul Lee and the Mag­no­lia Hot­shots picked the per­fect time to end a seven-game los­ing skid against de­fend­ing cham­pion Barangay Gine­bra.

Lee stuck dag­ger af­ter dag­ger into the hearts of the Gin Kings as the Hot­shots took Game 1 with a 106-98 vic­tory Satur­day night in the semi­fi­nals of the PBA Gover­nors’ Cup at Ynares Cen­ter here.

Those clutch hits by the guard known as the “Lethal Weapon” gave Mag­no­lia a cru­cial head­start in their best-of­five show­down for a Fi­nals berth and, more im­por­tantly, restored con­fi­dence within the Hot­shots, who have been slapped around by the Gin Kings in their pre­vi­ous seven meet­ings.

“We needed to be­lieve,” said Hot­shots coach Chito Vic­tolero. “We needed to send a mes­sage also.

“When we started pre­par­ing for Gine­bra, I told my play­ers that it’s al­ways a grind­ing game. It’s the ‘Cla­sico.’ The emo­tions, the hype [are there]. The per­se­ver­ance to snare Game 1 was ev­i­dent in the game.”

Lee pro­vided most of the ev­i­dence. With Gine­bra creep­ing to within 95-93, Lee scored 10 points—in­clud­ing a high­lightreel bas­ket off a spin move through the teeth of the Gine­bra de­fense—in the fi­nal 3:36 to put the game away and pre­serve the game-long hero­ics of Romeo Travis, who came through with a mon­ster out­put of 37 points, 16 re­bounds and five as­sists.

Lee wound up with 27 points, four re­bounds, three as- sists and four steals.

The Hot­shots and the Gin Kings go at it again on Mon­day at Smart Araneta Coli­seum. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and Vic­tolero was quick to re­mind ev­ery­one that Mag­no­lia hadn’t achieved any­thing just yet, not with the twotime reign­ing cham­pion on the op­po­site end of the court.

“We’re still the un­der­dogs. [Gine­bra] still has the skills, the talent, the coach,” he noted.

It was a sorry loss for Gine­bra, which led by as many as 12 in the open­ing pe­riod.

Justin Brown­lee led the Gin Kings with 37 points, 14 re­bounds and eight as­sists.

Mean­while, Mer­alco coach Norman Black spoke about scal­ing moun­tains Fri­day night, af­ter the Bolts won a sixth straight door-die game to rise from the No. 7 seed and book a semi­fi­nal berth. That’s why Alaska coach Alex Comp­ton is not leav­ing any­thing to chance.

“Mer­alco’s on a huge win streak. I knew that when we beat them [in the elim­i­na­tion round], that was far from their best [form],” said Comp­ton, who watched the Bolts dis­miss No. 2 Phoenix , 108-103, in their quar­ter­fi­nal show­down.

The Aces and the Bolts fig­ure in a semi­fi­nal saga that comes off wraps Sun­day at 6:30 p.m. at Ynares Cen­ter here.

—AU­GUST DELA CRUZ

Mark Bar­roca (left) and the Hot­shots draw first blood against Scot­tie Thomp­son and the No. 1 seed Gin Kings.

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