Hotshots hope to take brilliance into games that count

Jerrick Ahanmisi (with ball) gained much-needed action in the On Tour. —PBA IMAGES

Jerrick Ahanmisi (with ball) gained much-needed action in the On Tour. —PBA IMAGES

The unbeaten run in an exhibition series midway into one of the longest Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) off-seasons in recent times has put Magnolia’s confidence on a high heading into Season 48 starting in less than two weeks.

But even the Hotshots can agree that the 11-game sweep of the PBA On Tour also left them with a huge target on their backs.

“I agree that the teams are targeting us, some teams are preparing for us and the motivation will be different when they face us. It’s the same for us when we face the elite teams,” coach Chito Victolero told the Inquirer as Magnolia goes into the season-opening Commissioner’s Cup as among the favorites.

Magnolia dominated the two-month On Tour, with nine of those games being won in double figures, including a 33-point drubbing of shorthanded TNT.

While the rest of the field used the series to either experiment, rest their main guys or provide huge minutes for role players and benchwarmers, Magnolia was both serious while also maintaining a balance of the aspects mentioned.

Paul Lee, Jio Jalalon and Mark Barroca saw some action, so did Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang, albeit in limited minutes. James Laput, Jerrick Ahanmisi and Jed Mendoza took advantage of the big playing time to show Victolero what they are capable of.

New additions David Murrell and Joseph Eriobu, who was elevated from the PBA 3×3, used the On Tour to get acquainted with Magnolia’s defensive-minded system.

The Hotshots can only hope that they can carry, at least a big portion of that form now that the games will count, and expectations of them being among the teams to beat.

Lee sees Magnolia going into the season with something to prove and hungry to erase the stigma of early success and late disappointments in the conferences following the team’s last title in the 2018 Governors’ Cup, prompting opposing fans to describe the constant flameouts on social media as “Introboys.”

“I think we have something to prove because we usually fall short in the end, and we want to change that,” Lee said in Filipino. “We need to help each other because it won’t be easy this coming conference. Hopefully we can convert the hard work in our practices into the upcoming season.”

Import Tyler Bey will be the other player who’ll try to help the Hotshots complete the goal they have long been aiming for: a championship.

It starts on Nov. 5, when Magnolia faces TNT in the lone game of the season opener at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

But Magnolia will enter the campaign minus Abueva, who ruled himself out for the first month after undergoing a procedure for hemorrhoid removal.

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Sangalang is also looking to get into form slowly after missing the latter part of last season due to a scary thyroid issue that led to a significant weight loss.