By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal series between the Magnolia Hotshots and NLEX Road Warriors is back to square one after the former levelled the proceedings with a 99-84 victory in Game Two on Monday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Fell in the series opener last time around, Magnolia made sure not to bow down for a second straigth time in the series by countering everything that NLEX threw at it throughout the contest to notch the win and send their Philippine Basketball Association semifinal affair to a race-to-three victories engagement.
Control swung back and forth to open the first quarter as both teams had their respective runs.
It was Magnolia, however, which would take command of the opening canto, thanks to a late surge, holding a 27-20 advantage in the first 12 minutes of the contest.
The Hotshots maintained their charge early in second quarter, extending their lead to 12 points, 34-22, in the first three minutes.
NLEX then would make a mini-run, outscoring its opponent, 8-2, to come within six points, 36-30, by the 5:49 mark.
The Road Warriors continued making a charge back but the Hotshots made sure NLEX would not make much headway and stayed ahead, 48-39, at the halftime break.
In the third period. Paul Lee and Jio Jalalon would lead the way for Magnolia as it outsprinted NLEX, 16-9, to establish lead of 16 points, 64-48, in the first six minutes of the quarter.
Kiefer Ravena though settled things for the Road Warriors, facilitating to have his team come closer to six points, 64-58, with less than three minutes remaining.
Like much what they did in the previous quarters, the Hotshots countered with a 6-4 blast to end the period and take a 70-62 advantage heading into the final frame.
Magnolia opened the payoff quarter going for an early knockout with a 13-4 blast led by veteran Peter June Simon to post a 17-point cushion, 83-66, with four minutes lapsing.
It would maintain the same separation at the five-minute mark, 87-70.
The Road Warriors thereafter fashioned a fightback, coming within 12 points, 88-76, with 3:24 to go.
They would not come closer than that though as the Hotshots stood their ground and moved to wrap up the win the rest of the way.
Mr. Lee led Magnolia with 27 points followed by Ian Sangalang with 18 points and eight rebounds.
Mark Barroca had 11 points while Rome Dela Rosa and Aldrech Ramos had 10 each.
Alex Mallari and JR Quinahan, meanwhile, paced NLEX with 13 points apiece.
“Credit to the players for coming out with a team effort on both ends of the court,” said winning coach Chito Victolero after their victory, describing what in general did it for them.
“But we just tied the series. Hopefully we could sustain our performance tonight in our next games,” he added.
Game Three of Magnolia versus NLEX is tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.