Roster changes and multiple injuries to key players have prevented the team from making the finals for nine straight conferences. But after a long and winding road, the Hotshots have made its first finals appearance under head coach Chito Victolero in the recently concluded Philippine Cup.
And despite bowing to the San Miguel Beermen in five games, things are looking up for Magnolia.
However, one question still remains: will the Hotshots be able to carry over their momentum in the upcoming conference?
STATISTICS FROM LAST CONFERENCE
The Hotshots’ tenacious defense was vital for their resurgence in the past Philippine Cup. They allowed the least points per game (85.2), the lowest three-point percentage for an opponent, (27.4%), and rebounds per game (45.8). They were also able to limit their opponents’ opportunities on the break as they were third overall in the least opponent transition points (11.2) and opponent points off turnovers (14.7).
Magnolia shot at a stellar rate as they led the league in three-point percentage at 34.8 percent while placing third in free-throw percentage (73.5%) and overall field goal percentage (43.1%). Stalwarts like Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang and Rome dela Rosa have stepped up to contribute in the aforementioned categories.
Tinkering his player rotations will be an interesting conundrum for Chito Victolero. With Marc Pingris sidelined indefinitely due to a knee injury he suffered in last cup’s semis, extended minutes will be given to role players like Rafi Reavis, Aldrech Ramos, and Kyle Pascual.
Ian Sangalang has proven to be the heir apparent the team’s primary option in the post. In the Philippine Cup, the former San Sebastian cager averaged 14.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest. His combination of power and finesse has made him very difficult to defend.
As for the guards, a proper balance needs to be achieved for guys like Paul Lee, Rome dela Rosa, Mark Barroca, Justin Melton, and Jio Jalalon. Lee went on to lead Magnolia in scoring (14.9 points per game) while Mark Barroca was a steady option with 12.2 points per contest. Rome dela Rosa was red-hot from deep in the previous conference at 50 percent and would definitely play the role as the team’s resident 3-and-D guy. Expect these guys, along with Jio Jalalon (who led the team in assists with 4.4 assists per game), to hold down the backcourt for the Hotshots, especially with Melton ailing and with PJ Simon getting older.
Vernon Macklin will suit up as the team’s import for the Commissioner’s Cup after coming off from a stint in the Korean Basketball League. The former Detroit Piston first played in the PBA with Ginebra and he towed them all the way to the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup Finals before getting swept by the Alaska Aces. He posted averages of 22.1 points and 14.6 rebounds. His hustle and explosiveness would be a very welcome addition for the Hotshots’ frontcourt.
It would be wise for the Hotshots to continue and develop their nucleus of Sangalang, Dela Rosa, and Jalalon as they are primed to be leading this franchise for years to come.
Barring any major injuries, I expect the Magnolia Hotshots to at least reach the semi finals for the upcoming conference. If they keep up with this torrid pace of play, Magnolia might be able to win more than they should. Heck, they might even win it all if everything falls into place.