Just like the previous Philippine Cup Finals, the Magnolia Hotshots drew first blood against the defending champions San Miguel Beermen to kick off their best-of-seven series on the right foot.
After winning Game 1 though, the Hotshots relinquished the next four to end their championship run on a sad note.
This time, however, Magnolia big man Ian Sangalang admitted that last year was a painful experience for the team but they have learned a lot from it, enough to guarantee that the same thing won’t happen again in this year’s edition of the sibling rivalry.
“Ibang usapan na ngayon. Marami na kaming pinagdaanan,” said Sangalang.
The Hotshots, who are fresh from winning last season’s Governors’ Cup, actually started every round of the current conference with a loss. They opened the elimination round with three successive defeats, but finished in the opposite fashion to claim 6th seed via a 6-5 record. The dropped their first game in the quarterfinals against Manila Clasico rival Brgy. Ginebra but won the next two to advance to the next round. In a display of consistency, they lost the first two games of the semifinals against a determined Rain or Shine squad but claimed the succeeding three and eventually the winner-take-all Game 7 to setup a return engagement with sister team San Miguel in the championship round.
“It’s a learning experience para samin. Kaya nga sabi ko sa kanila di yan natatapos dito. We know na talagang babalik at babalik ang San Miguel, but natuto din kami doon. Ang kailangan lang talaga namin gawin is to settle down and again, prepare hard for Friday’s game,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero.
The one-time PBA champion mentor agreed with the sentiment of his starting big man regarding the valuable learning experience the team picked up from last season’s debacle in the Philippine Cup.
“We improved a lot siguro in terms of maturity and experience because since nung 2018 Philippine Cup Finals, natuto na din yung core ng team na to. Natuto kami doon sa experience na yun, hindi natatapos sa one game,” he added.