After coming just one win short of last year’s PBA Philippine Cup title, the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok will have redemption in their mind in the upcoming 45th season of the PBA which will start on March 8.
The Chito Victolero-mentored squad infused some much-needed youth to their aging frontcourt by adding 6-foot-5 athletic slotman Aris Dionisio to the fold. The Hotshots will also finally enjoy a full season with talented playmaker Chris Banchero, whom they acquired in the middle of the season-ending tournament last year.
The heart and soul of the team, Mark Pingris, is also healthy once more and will look to add another championship to his resume.
Before we dive into their chances this year, let’s have a look at how the Hotshots fared last season.
2019 season review
Philippine Cup: runners-up (defeated by San Miguel in 7 games in the Finals)
Commissioner’s Cup: 5th seed after eliminations (eliminated by Ginebra in Quarterfinals)
Governors’ Cup: 6th seed after eliminations (eliminated by TNT in Quarterfinals)
Although not as stacked as some of the best teams in the league, the Hotshots still managed to outlast 10 other teams in last year’s All-Filipino tourney. Despite being just the sixth seed entering the playoffs (6-5 record), Magnolia bested higher seeds Ginebra and Rain or Shine to set up a date with the five-peat seeking San Miguel.
They stood toe-to-toe with SMB’s formidable core but eventually lost the deciding Game 7.
Magnolia finished 5th in the eliminations stage of the midseason tournament and set up a date with Ginebra in the quarterfinals. The team, however, struggled with inconsistency after a revolving door of imports. The Hotshots brought in ex-NBA player Rakeem Christmas in the postseason to up their chances. But he never found his groove with Magnolia and they dropped back-to-back games vs GInebra in their best-of-three affair.
The Hotshots were on a quest to defend their Govs’ Cup crown in the season-ending tourney and brought back Romeo Travis. But injuries derailed the lefty reinforcement and the Hotshots only managed to finish in 6th place in the eliminations.
They figured in an exhilarating game against TNT in the Quarterfinals. They were booted out early after coming on the short end of a heartbreaking one-point defeat, 98-97.
Can the Hotshots return to glory this season?
Notable additions: Jackson Corpuz, Aris Dionisio, Yankie Haruna, Alvin Capobres
Notable omissions: Aldrech Ramos, Bambam Gamalinda
The Hotshots have always come up with a competitive squad throughout the years. Still, the team is still overshadowed by its more successful sister teams San Miguel and Ginebra, who both won a title last season.
With SMB and Ginebra losing their massive centers in June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter, respectively, this might just be Magnolia’s chance to break free.
The team has had trouble matching up with the behemoths of this league, even with talented slotmen like Ian Sangalang, Rafi Reavis, and Marc Pingris in the fold. They won’t have problems in that department in 2020, with the arrival of Jackson Corpuz and Aris Dionisio.
Aldrech Ramos and Bambam Gamalinda were both serviceable during their tenure with the Hotshots, but the team certainly upgraded with their new recruits.
Despite their improvement upfront, Magnolia will still go as far as their backcourt takes them. The 3-headed guard rotation of Paul Lee, Jio Jalalon, and Mark Barroca became four with the addition of Chris Banchero last season. Justin Melton also continues to provide a huge spark off the bench and will once again be crucial in Magnolia’s small-ball system.
(Images from PBA Media Group)