Ian Sangalang sank the game-winning layup with time expiring to lift the Magnolia Hotshots over Alaska, 84-82, and cap off Wednesday's 2021 PBA Philippine Cup action with a bang at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Tied at 82 with under 20 seconds left off a timeout, head coach Chito Victolero drew up a well-executed play that ended with Paul Lee assisting on the big man to beat the buzzer and give the Hotshots their second win of the conference.
Sangalang's clutch shot capped off a big night that saw him torch the Aces to the tune of 26 points on 11-for-20 shooting to go with five rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 27 minutes.
Victolero said the play ran as intended for Magnolia, which climbed alongside Meralco and Rain or Shine atop the standings at 2-0 thanks to the connection between Lee and Sangalang.
"We actually went to staggered screens for Paul, then we spread the floor out," Victolero shared in Filipino. "The Alaska players collapsed on Paul and that freed up Ian. That was really the pattern of the play, but of course it was up to Paul to decide what to do, and he found Ian on the easy basket.
"Sa tagal nilang magkakilala, mata pa lang, nagkakausap na sila," he added.
Lee bucked a cold-shooting night to finish with 16 points on 4-for-14 shooting and two assists, while Rome dela Rosa tallied 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting from deep along with six rebounds and a big steal with 20.6 seconds left to give Magnolia the final offensive possession of the game.
Calvin Abueva threw in 10 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal before fouling out with over two minutes left in the game.
Both teams were tied at 70 with 9:38 in the fourth quarter when the Hotshots went on the defensive, holding Alaska to just two points while scoring 10 of their own in the next five minutes to take an 80-72 lead.
But the Aces managed to stay in the game thanks to Yousef Taha, who scored four in a 10-0 run -- and grabbed a crucial offensive rebound that led to a Robbie Herndon three to cap off the blast -- to give Alaska an 82-80 lead with 1:09 left.
Sangalang answered back with a bucket to tie things up at 82, then another stop led to a Rafi Reavis trip to the line with 34 seconds remaining. The veteran big man, however, muffed both charities, giving Alaska the ball for the next possession.
Alaska looked poised to take the lead in the final 30, but Reavis poked the ball away from Taha to ensure that it would be the Hotshots taking the last look of the evening.
Victolero lauded his wards for making quick adjustments a day after the league reconfigured the schedule due to four positive COVID-19 tests produced by TNT. The Tropang Giga were supposed to be Magnolia's next opponents instead of Alaska.
"I told the players that this would not be an easy game and we will sweat it out," he said. "We had to be committed to this game because it's hard, we only had one day of preparation so we needed to adjust right away. But I told the players that we can't use that as an excuse. And through hard work, we were able to recover."
Defense proved to be the key for Magnolia. After allowing Alaska to shoot a solid 45.9 percent (17-for-37) from the field in the first half, the Hotshots tightened things up and limited their counterparts to just 27.5 percent (11-for-40).
"I talked to the players in the dugout in the first half, and I told them we needed to limit our opponents' inside points, and we need to tighten our defense," explained Victolero. "We executed in the end. We limited our opponents to 80 points. That was a testament to our defense."
This is also the second time in as many games that Magnolia limited its opponents to under 40 percent shooting, as Alaska made only 36.4 percent of its shots overall.
"We have a defensive mindset and we're a defensive team. I'm very satisfied. We actually have a goal this conference: to have the lowest points allowed," said Victolero. "In the last two games, we achieved that. I'm very happy because our pressure defense is still there, and we still maintained our discipline in our half-court defense."
The Aces, now at 1-1, were led by Taha, who collected 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting, 10 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block in 28 minutes. Jeron Teng and Abu Tratter also chipped in 10 apiece.
Magnolia 84 - Sangalang 26, Lee 16, Dela Rosa 12, Barroca 10, Abueva 9, Dionisio 5, Jalalon 4, Corpuz 2, Reavis 0, J. Ahanmisi 0.
Alaska 82- Taha 20, Teng 10, Tratter 10, Banal 9, Herndon 8, Casio 7, Adamos 6, DiGregorio 6, Brondial 3, M. Ahanmisi 3, Browne 0.
Quarter scores : 26-25, 41-47, 65-66, 84-82
- This is Magnolia's first 2-0 start in the Philippine Cup under coach Victolero, and the franchise's first since the 2013 edition of the conference, per PBA statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
- Tonight also marked the second time in which Taha recorded a career-high in scoring, per the PBA.
- Alaska vs. Phoenix on July 24, Saturday, at 4:35 p.m.
- Magnolia vs. Barangay Ginebra on July 25, Sunday, at 4:35 p.m.