Unbeaten after three starts in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, Magnolia believes fans will get a different taste of the pro league’s most famous rivalry as Barangay Ginebra will have to do without Justin Brownlee.
“I think the flavor of the Manila Clasico will be different because Justin is out,” coach Chito Victolero said after the Hotshots primed themselves for the rivalry game with Friday’s 112-74 rout of the NorthPort Batang Pier at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
But other than that, the fireworks will still be the same.
“But [the] Clasico is still the Clasico,” Victolero continued. “We expect a very hard game on Sunday and we expect a big crowd. And we see this as a players’ game for Sunday and they will give their all against Ginebra.”
It will be the first time in quite some time that Magnolia will face a Ginebra team that won’t be having Brownlee for the sibling duel. In fact, watching Ginebra play without Brownlee will take some getting used to.
And everyone began seeing what that would look like late Friday as Tony Bishop, temporarily filling Brownlee’s spot while the latter awaits the verdict for failing a doping test at the Hangzhou Asian Games, suited up for Ginebra’s season-opener against Converge.
A win against the league’s most-loved squad in their Sunday duel will raise Magnolia’s perfect slate in the conference while boosting its confidence in the quest to win the first PBA title since the 2018 Governors’ Cup.
Among the keys for the Hotshots in their latest victory was import Tyler Bey, who once again posted solid numbers of 25 points, eight rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks.Facing Ginebra will be a crucial test for the young former NBA player for the Dallas Mavericks as Magnolia looks to continue picking up victories.
“He helps a lot with his energy and athleticism on both offense and defense,” said Victolero. “I think there’s still some things we must address but he’s doing okay. His progression has been better.”
Mark Barroca and Paul Lee, among the crucial figures when Magnolia faces Ginebra, put up usual performances as Magnolia leaned on a first quarter blitz to frustrate NorthPort.
Magnolia ended the first quarter up 28-8 and at some point led by 38, dealing NorthPort its first defeat after a 2-0 start.
Arvin Tolentino, among those responsible for the impressive start, produced 22 points, seven rebounds and two assists for the Batang Pier.
Import Venky Jois added 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals for NorthPort.