Magnolia beats Phoenix, sets PBA Finals duel vs. San Miguel

MANILA, Philippines – Magnolia Hotshots repelled a big third-quarter Phoenix Fuel Masters’ run to end the series, 89-79, and joined the PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals casts together with San Miguel Beermen on January 31, 2024 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

With the series momentum abruptly shifted to Phoenix due to its game-3 win, Magnolia went hard in the opener and forced its big guns to explode and fend off the Fuel Masters. Mark Barroca and Paul Lee led the Hotshots from downtown for an early double-digit advantage.

Marc “Coffee Prince” Barroca erupted for 21 points
Mark “Coffee Prince” Barroca erupted for 21 points to finish off Phoenix and arrange a showdown versus SMB. Photo Caption: OneSports PH

The rim seemed to be protected by a lid for the Fuel Masters as their shots kept on bouncing out. Finally, after a long 4 minutes, Phoenix broke its silence with a three-pointer courtesy of Kenneth Tuffin.

Phoenix was able to contain the hot-shooting Barocca from the outside. However, Magnolia’s inside game was more effective and yielded the Hotshots a sizable 29-16 lead after the first 12 minutes of the ballgame.

Not only Barocca was Phoenix’s problem, Jio Jalalon and James Laput joined the scoring spree at the start of the 2nd period. On a brighter note, prolific import Tyler Bey only had 3 points compared to Jonathan Williams’ 10.

With their backs against the wall, the Fuel Masters, out of nowhere stepped on the gas pedal to accelerate offensively. Magnolia’s almost 20-point lead abruptly vanished as RR Garcia dropped the long bombs.

With Garcia pummeling Magnolia from the three-point line, Barroca once again re-introduced himself as the boss of game 4 to bring the lead up again to a distance with 5 more minutes left in the second. The “Coffee Prince” already had 16 with 2 more quarters to go.

Surprisingly, Phoenix’s local gunner, Jason Perkins struggled all along. The “Hefty Lefty” only had a deuce which is way below his usual output.

The Fuel Masters bagged a few more buckets to narrow Magnolia’s lead, 49-38 entering the 3rd period.

Not a good 2nd half start for Magnolia as Coach Chito Victolero got a technical foul for entering the court on a live ball. Phoenix capitalized on Coach Victolero’s infraction to tighten the gap and increase the Fuel Masters’ chance of extending the series to a rubber match.

Despite Phoenix Stars’ scoring hibernation, the team’s super subs stepped up to keep the series alive. RJ Jazul who made a significant impact previously found his rhythm from the outside to cut the once 16-humongous advantage to just 2.

Just as Phoenix tried to take over Magnolia, Ian Sanggalang made a run for himself and helped his team regain the lead, 70-53 heading to the final canto.

4 minutes had gone by in the fourth and Phoenix hadn’t scored a point. In contrast, Bey started to add more points to his stats sheet and looked to finish the series off tonight.

In just a blink of an eye, Fuel Masters’ scoring surge in the penultimate quarter went directly to the drain and time was no longer on their side as Hotshots’ lead ballooned to 20.

Sean Manganti tried to fight back on behalf of his sub-performing superstar teammates, but Magnolia’s firepower and experience were too much for them, underdogs.

Manganti’s overall fourth-quarter effort became completely useless as Magnolia slowly closed Phoenix’s door and Sangalang placed the nail in the coffin.

At the final buzzer, Magnolia wrapped up the series with an 89-79 convincing win and arranged a finals showdown against its sister team, San Miguel Beermen.

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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