The NLEX Road Warriors were one of the PBA's hottest teams going into the All-Star break. NLEX looked like it would sustain that momentum Wednesday with a hot start against the Magnolia Hotshots. JR Quiñahan capped a 7-0 opening flurry with a booming 3-pointer in the opening period.
That would be the Road Warriors' biggest scoring run. The Hotshots scored the next nine points and pulled away late in the game for a 102-74 win to clinch the sixth spot at 6-5. The Hotshots will face rival Ginebra in the best-of-three quarterfinals.
NLEX relied on its 3-point shooting in recent wins but the Road Warriors shot bricks from long range against Magnolia, making only 9-of-35 from the 3-point area.
After NLEX's 7-0 start, Paul Lee gave the Road Warriors a dose of their own medicine and unloaded two triples that set the tone for the Hotshots. Magnolia outscored NLEX, 57-38, in the middle quarter and led by as much as 31 points.
Lee made it rain from long distance with six 3-pointers. He finished with a game-high 26 points to go with five rebounds and two steals. Aldrech Ramos and Mark Barroca added 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero attributed the victory to the team's defense after limiting the in-form Road Warriors to 74 points.
Magnolia did a spectacular job on the defensive end that only Bong Galanza finished in double figures for the Road Warriors. Galanza had 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field. Poy Erram, the cornerstone of the franchise which is on the rise, shot a paltry 3-of-13 for seven points.
"We achieved our goal to get the No. 6 spot. Our defense played a big factor in this victory. Our goal is to hold them to under 90 points and match their effort," Victolero said after the match.
"I'm happy and proud of my players. Although we were coming off a long break, we were able to maintain our rhythm."
Magnolia will now focus on a best-of-three series against the Kings, who will wind up with the third seed regardless of the outcome of their match against NorthPort.
"We will focus now on the quarterfinals. We're facing a tough team in Ginebra," Victolero said.
Magnolia 102 - Lee 26, Ramos 15, Barroca 14, Sangalang 10, Jalalon 8, Herndon 6, Melton 5, Simon 5, Brondial 5, Reavis 2, Dela Rosa 2, Gamalinda 2, Pascual 2, Abundo 0, Calisaan 0.
NLEX 72 - Galanza 10, Ighalo 9, Quinahan 8, Tallo 8, Erram 7, Rios 6, Magat 6, Paniamogan 6, Varilla 6, Soyud 4, Baguio 2, lao 2, Tuongson 0, Taulava 0, Paredes 0.
Quarter scores: 20-16, 46-30, 77-54, 102-74
NLEX was undermanned as Larry Fonacier and Kris Porter sat out the match. Recovering from injury, the two are still waiting for clearance from the doctors.
Magnolia's bench also did a splendid job. The Hotshots outscored NLEX in that department, 57-38.
Only Erram and Kenneth Ighalo had 10 or more attempts for the Road Warriors.