By Olmin Leyba
THE last time it played in front of fans back in March 2020 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the Magnolia came out on the losing end.
On Wednesday, with the crowd finally back for Governors’ Cup action at the Big Dome, the Hotshots made sure they wound up victorious this time around.
The Hotshots waylaid Terrafirma, 114-87, to make a winning debut in the import-flavored tournament and a triumphant return to same venue where 21 months ago, they yielded a 94-78 setback to San Miguel Beer in the last non-closed-door game held pre-pandemic.
The 27-point romp was also a confidence-builder coming off Magnolia’s 1-4 loss to the TnT Tropang Giga in the battle for the coveted Philippine Cup last October.
“We want to start strong and send a signal right away,” said coach Chito Victolero, remembering how their flat start in 2020 led to quarterfinal exit and strong opening in the last All-Filipino led to a finals appearance.
Mike Harris turned in a dominant 30 points and 15 rebounds as four Magnolia locals produced double-digit outputs. Calvin Abueva, fresh from his Best Player of the Conference accolade last conference, had a 17-11 while Paul Lee shot 16 and Ian Sangalang and Aris Dionisio chipped in 10 apiece.
“It’s a total team effort. Even si Mike, iyon ang gusto niya: Good ball movement at ma-involve ang locals sa offense,” said Mr. Victolero.
The Magnolia mentor shared how playing in a venue with a live audience again fired them up.
“It adds to the motivation, fire, energy, aggressiveness,” Mr. Victolero added.
Harris’ counterpart, Antonio Hester, finished with 21 markers and eight boards before hurting his neck early in the fourth.