Magnolia set itself for an early collision course with Manila Clasico rival Ginebra in the playoffs after clobbering NLEX, 102-74, in their final PBA Philippine Cup assignment Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots, who simply needed a win to clinch the sixth seed, got a huge boost from Paul Lee, who finished with 26 points built around six threes.
Lee poured 10 of those in a pivotal second frame that turned a four-point lead midway through the quarter into a 16-point lead, 46-30, entering the break.
Magnolia kept the pressure up and continued to pile on NLEX’s woes in the second half to put away the game out of reach early on. A PJ Simon jumper with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter even pushed their lead up to 31, 94-63.
“We achieved our goal, and that is to get the #6 spot. Malaking factor ‘yung defense namin because our goal is to limit NLEX to under 90 points and na matapatan yung effort nila,” head coach Chito Victolero said.
Aldrech Ramos also put up 15 points off the bench, while Mark Barroca pitched in 14 for the Hotshots.
Bong Galanza scored 10 points to be the only player to hit double-digits for the Road Warriors, who shot a dismal 31.5 percent from the field.
This will be the second straight conference that Magnolia will be facing the Gin Kings in the playoffs. They last faced each other last December in the 2018 Governors’ Cup, where the Hotshots dispatched Ginebra in four games.
Magnolia’s win over the Road Warriors also means that NLEX, NorthPort and Alaska will have to figure in a tricky fight for the last two playoff berths.
A win by the streaking Batang Pier against Ginebra later will mean that it’ll be the NLEX and the Aces duking it out for the eighth and final seed, while a loss will set up a NorthPort-Alaska playoff due to a superior quotient held by NLEX.
MAGNOLIA (102) — Lee 26, Ramos 15, Barroca 14, Sangalang 10, Jalalon 8, Herndon 6, Melton 5, Simon 5, Brondial 5, Reavis 2, Gamalinda 2, Dela Rosa 2, Pascual 2, Calisaan 0, Abundo 0.
NLEX (74) — Galanza 10, Ighalo 9, Tallo 8, Quinahan 8, Erram 7, Rios 6, Paniamogan 6, Varilla 6, Magat 6, Soyud 4, Baguio 2, Lao 2, Tiongson 0, Taulava 0, Paredes 0.
Quarters: 20-16; 46-30; 77-54; 102-74.