Apr 13, 2024

Phoenix, Magnolia figure in tug-of-war as battle for playoff spots heat up

AFTER cutting short their two-game slides Magnolia and Phoenix Super LPG hope to use the other as a stepping stone and continue their climb up when they collide Sunday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.

The protagonists are each eyeing a second straight win with the Fuel Masters aiming to follow up their 113-107 decision over Converge last Friday that snapped the former out of their slide and boosted their record to 2-4.

For their part, the Hotshots shrugged off back-to-back losses to NLEX and Barangay Ginebra by carving out a 104-97 win over erstwhile streaking NorthPort last Wednesday, giving the former an even 2-2 slate.

Forward Rome dela Rosa (ankle) would continue to sit it out but there's a bit of good news for Magnolia. Aris Dionisio has started practicing after sitting out the last two games due to his own ankle injury while separate injuries to guards Mark Barroca, Jio Jalalon and Jed Mendoza continue to heal.

"Unti-unti naman nabububuo na ulit ang team and, hopefully, in time for the more important games kumpleto na," said Hotshots coach Chito Victolero on the eve of the match.

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Victolero also admitted he needs all the warm bodies he could get against Phoenix. "Based on last night's game, iyung Phoenix talagang very fluid," he noted.

"Maraming itinatakbo, iba-iba. Kumbaga, changeups. So I think it's a good matchup para sa amin," added Victolero.

The Fuel Masters have themselves been riddled by injuries with Tyler Tio (knee) and Raoul Soyud (hamstring) still out and RR Garcia (shoulder) remaining doubtful.

Thanks mainly to Jason Perkins, Kenneth Tuffin and Ricci Rivero, Phoenix managed to hurdle Converge's best game yet in the conference. Certainly, at least more of the same is expected from them and the rest of their teammates if they hope to overcome Magnolia.

Ian Sangalang, for one, is coming off a sterling performance against NorthPort that saw him notch a career-best 32 points on top of 13 rebounds. But Victolero insisted his team's chances hinge largely on their approach.

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"Importante pa rin iyung our willingness to give our best effort du'n sa game. Kasi iyon ang importante ngayon, eh. Kasi makikita mo naman ngayon na ang lahat ng teams, they're improving na," stated Victolero.

"Tomorrow sana enough ang preparations namin para we'll have a good chance na manalo." (NC)