Coach Chito Victolero insists that Magnolia wasn’t too distracted by the controversy surrounding the incidents involving Calvin Abueva in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
“We took away all of the distractions and the players did a good job on the mental aspect preparing for this game,” said Victolero.
But Victolero couldn’t help but be proud of the solid play Abueva showed in the Hotshots’ 88-80 win that got them back in the championship fight and relaxing the San Miguel Beermen hold on the series, two games to one.
Abueva finished with six points and seven rebounds as a tamed version of “The Beast” didn’t show signs of the antics he displayed in Game 2, which led to a P100,000 fine.
Abueva mocked San Miguel coach Jorge Gallent’s disability—the Beermen tactician lost his right eye to a motorcycle accident decades ago—and got a stern warning from commissioner Willie Marcial for his actions and for engaging in a shouting match with Mo Tautuaa’s wife Aida after Game 2.
Victolero later told The Inquirer how pleased he was with how Abueva conducted himself, and how he was able to play a part in the locals stepping up after two anemic efforts that put Magnolia two games down.
“I think Calvin did a very good job mentally,” said Victolero. “He was focused on the game, he played his role and he knows his importance to his team. We expect Calvin to do that in the series.”
Mark Barroca, perhaps the most consistent performer for Magnolia in the Finals, got some help with Paul Lee, Jio Jalalon and Ian Sangalang contributing and Aris Dionisio providing quality minutes with key threes that put San Miguel away in the fourth.
Magnolia’s win put to bed talks of a San Miguel sweep and gave the Hotshots the belief that beating the talent-laden Beermen is doable. Magnolia will try to square up the series on Friday.
San Miguel lost for the first time since it fielded Bennie Boatwright to replace Ivan Aska, ending a string of eight straight victories with him dating back to the eliminations.
It was the Beermen’s first defeat since Dec. 10, coincidentally against the Hotshots at PhilSports Arena.
Getting the message
And now the series can perhaps go back to focusing on basketball after much of the talk during the two-day lull was on Abueva and his actions.
Before the game, Marcial said he made sure that Abueva got the message, warning him of further repercussions if similar incidents occur in the future.
Abueva was handed an indefinite suspension that lasted 16 months from 2019 to 2020 by Marcial after hitting TNT import Terrence Jones while playing for Phoenix.
“I told him, ‘Calvin, here you go again.’ I banned you before because of the [ugly things] you do,” Marcial told reporters.