Magnolia nails 5th win with victory over TNT


MANILA — The Magnolia Hotshots bucked yet another injury suffered by star guard Paul Lee to beat the TNT KaTropa Texters, 91-83, in the PBA Philippine Cup Saturday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The win was the fourth straight and fifth overall against one loss for the Hotshots, firming up their grip of the solo second spot in the standings behind the undefeated three-time defending champion San Miguel Beer (5-0).

The Texters saw their two-game win streak come to an end as they slipped to a 3-3 win-loss slate.

Lee hurt his ankle early in the third quarter when he collided in mid-air with TNT’s Troy Rosario while going for a drive. Lee just came back from a long layoff after undergoing a knee procedure during the offseason. He was not fielded back after the incident and finished with five points, two rebounds, and a single assist.

Mark Barroca and Justin Melton stepped up in Lee’s absence. Barroca led Magnolia with 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals, and one block in 33 minutes off the bench. His jump shot off a Rosario goaltending violation turned back the rallying Texters who managed to slash the Hotshots’ 10-point lead to just 87-83.

Melton put up 14 points, 10 boards, two assists, and two steals in 23 minutes off the bench. Ian Sangalang and Marc Pingris added 13 points apiece.

The Hotshots used a crippling defense to prevail over the Texters who could only shoot a dismal 38.1 percent from the field, hitting just 32 of their 84 shots. Magnolia handcuffed TNT star guard Jayson Castro all night long, Castro shot a forgettable 5-of-16 from the field to collect 14 points.

Mo Tautuaa led TNT with 16 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench in a losing effort. Rosario added 15 while Roger Pogoy chipped in 11 points.

Alaska 88, Blackwater 84

The resurgent Alaska Aces continued their rise to the top, racking up their fourth straight win after a 0-2 start with a methodical 88-84 victory over the Blackwater Elite in the first game of Saturday’s PBA Philippine Cup doubleheader.

The Aces won despite the mysterious decision by star forward Calvin Abueva to skip the game due to an unexplained “personal emergency.”

The Elite absorbed their third straight loss for a 2-4 win-loss slate.

Alaska led all the way but had to fend off a mighty comeback bid by Blackwater in the endgame.

With Abueva out, Chris Banchero stepped up big time as he and Vic Manuel scored a team-high 16 points each. Banchero also finished with seven rebounds, four steals, and two assists in over 30 minutes as a starter. Manuel showed his “Muscle Man” self is back after suffering a calf injury last season as he added six boards, two assists, and one steal in 20 minutes off the bench.

Although Banchero and Manuel led Alaska, it was rookie Jeron Teng who bailed the Aces out of trouble after he drilled a three-pointer after a jump ball that gave his team an 86-80 lead with 1:04 left, enough cushion to stop the Elite on their tracks. Teng finished with 10 points.

Kevin Racal was the fourth Alaska player to score in double digits, finishing with 14 points.

JP Erram led the Elite with 14 points, a whopping 21 rebounds, and five blocks while Mike Digregorio and Mac Belo top-scored for Blackwater with 15 points apiece in a losing effort.

Games Sunday: Meralco Bolts (2-3) vs. GlobalPort Batang Pier (2-3) and San Miguel Beermen (5-0) vs. Barangay Ginebra Kings (2-3).