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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, March 7, 2018
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Magnolia, San Miguel in PBA final four


Magnolia Hotshots overcame a sluggish start and an early 20-point deficit, using a stifling defense in the last three quarters to ease past GlobalPort, 86-79, for a Final Four passage in the PBA Philippine Cup at the MOA Arena in Pasay City last night.

In the first game, San Miguel Beer prevailed over TNT, 106-93, to claim the first semi-final seat.

With their tremendous effort on defense, the Hotshots effected an amazing 31-point turnaround on the way to the seven-point triumph that sent them to the best-of-seven semifinals against the winner of the NLEX-Alaska Milk quarterfinals matchup.

Paul Lee, Marc Pingris and Ian Sangalang also played key roles as Magnolia booked a fourth straight semi-final stint.

A big key was holding the Batang Pier down to 53 points in the last three quarters after exploding for 26 in the opening canto.

An ugly sight on GlobalPort's downfall was the verbal tussle between coach Pido Jarencio and ace player Terrence Romeo after the Hotshots had taken the lead at 54-53 with three minutes left in the third.

The Hotshots roared all the way to an 11-point lead and subsequently eliminated the Batang Pier.

GlobalPort was the sixth team to take the exit after Kia, Meralco, Blackwater, Phoenix Petroleum and TNT KaTropa.

Either against NLEX or Alaska in the semifinals, Victolero anticipates a tough defensive battle.

Meanwhile, June Mar Fajardo cast his huge shadow over TNT with the reigning four-time MVP netting 35 points on top of 11 rebounds.

Fellow starters Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross also played key roles as the top-ranked Beermen did not let their win-once advantage over the eighth-seeded KaTropa go to waste.

As an additional result, coach Leo Austria got some form of present for his wife, who underwent a kidney transplant operation earlier in the day, making the five-time champion strategist antsy before the game.

"I never had any sleep last night because of my wife and I also knew this is going to be the hardest game we'd ever played against TNT," said Austria.

The loss is a very bitter one for TNT, which had to beat NLEX at the end of their elimination round last Friday and Phoenix in their one-game playoff two days later just to earn the last quarterfinals ticket.

They even fought back from an early 12-point deficit and even battled the Beermen on practically even terms. But the three-time defending champions' poise and grit surfaced, much like what they did in diffusing the KaTropa's challenge in their semi-final duel in the same tournament last year.*pba.com


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