Chris Banchero fit right in with Magnolia during his debut Wednesday as the Hotshots nabbed an important 97-81 win over the Phoenix Fuel Masters in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup.
While his numbers off the bench weren't eye-popping (10 points on 4-for-11 shots, 5 rebounds, 3 assists), Banchero impressed coach Chito Victolero with how quickly made an impact in just his third day with the team.
"Very happy with Chris. There's a lot more to come. He's only practiced with us twice and the kid's still figuring things out," Victolero said in Filipino. "But despite that, he still gave us something good -- his hustle, his energy, the way he pushed the ball, his defense."
"I'm just happy we got the win and closed it out against a team that was fighting for their lives to get to the playoffs. I thought we played well tonight," Banchero said.
It didn't take long for Victolero to experiment with how a three-guard lineup of Banchero, Paul Lee and Mark Barroca would look. The Hotshots trotted out the trio together in the final 5 minutes and yielded decent results.
Banchero checked in with 4:47 left in the fourth quarter with Magnolia leading 81-73 against a Phoenix side looking to make one last push. The three guards, along with import Romeo Travis and Marc Pingris manning the frontline, shut the door on the Fuel Masters right after Banchero's entry, going on an 11-4 run in the next two minutes to grab a 92-77 lead that proved to be insurmountable.
"That was our endgame lineup. The pace was ours, the tempo of the game was ours. Maybe we'll give up something on the rebounding aspect, but we can give that up since Romeo and Pingris did a good job on rebounding the ball. The important thing is we controlled the game with those three guards," observed Victolero.
"It felt good. It looked good," Banchero noted. "I think we're really tough defensively. We're gonna give people a hard time. We have a lot of quick guards. It's gonna be tough. We held them to only 81 points. If we can stay in that area, that's how you win championships. Defense and rebounding is gonna get the job done."
Victolero said it's not a lineup that he'll deploy regularly, although he's glad to have that option.
"We'll probably roll with it depending on the matchup, which we did in the last six minutes," he said. "I'm very happy that I have a weapon like that. I can go big, I can go small depending on the matchup."
Banchero, meanwhile, said he'll look to capitalize on meshing with the other guards better.
"To come in with only two days is tough, and I try to learn like 10 plays and 10 defensive schemes. But at the end of the day, we're just playing basketball out there. So it wasn't too hard," he said.
"I don't have to try and do too much 'cause there's a lot of other guys who can create and make plays," Banchero added. "For me, it makes my job a lot easier. ... It's gonna take a while to get to develop that chemistry, but once that happens, I think we're gonna be a really tough ball club."