Magnolia tried to stop super rookie Mikey Williams. They could not, but the Hotshots still found a way to pull off a 106-98 beating of the Talk N Text Tropang Giga on Sunday night in Game 3 of their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven showdown at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The 6’2” Williams erupted for 39 points in 45 minutes, the highest output in a championship game by a rookie in more than two decades, but his efforts went down the drain against a determined Hotshots team that stayed alive in the series after losing the first two games.
“We changed our defense with our man-to-man. TNT knows we play man-to-man. We just tried to limit Mikey Williams. Mas maganda defense namin ngayon compared to our last two games,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, now that the Hotshots are just behind the Tropang Giga at 1-2.
Williams came close to the performance of Eric Menk, who had 42 in Game 3 of the 1999 All-Filipino title series for Tanduay, an encounter which they still lost to Shell, 91-81, in Ormoc City.
The Tropang Giga made their last attempt to close in on Magnolia in the final 1:11 off Williams’ 10th and final triple for the game, 95-98. Those threes were also a record, which broke the feat of NLEX’s Calvin Oftana, who had eight a month ago.
But the Hotshots, who led by as much as 12 points, frustrated TNT’s last bid with Andy Barroca’s floater, which found its mark in the last 52 seconds for a 100-95 score.
“Sabi ko sa kanila (team), we’ve been in the finals before because of our defense. So we just go back before to what happened to our defense in our playoffs with Meralco, and Rain or Shine,” added Victolero.
Paul Lee, recovering from an injured shoulder, powered the Hotshots with 21 points, making 11 of them in the first half as they took a 52-46 halftime lead.
Lee’s trey in the remaining 8:18 of the third gave the Hotshots a 69-56 edge.
Barroca knocked in 16 points, including eight points at the start of the fourth period, lifting the Hotshots to a 95-77 spread with 7:49 left.
Williams banged in eight points in the last period as TNT rallied and came to within three, before Barroca frustrated the Tropang Giga with his floater in the final minute.
Calvin Abueva struck with 14 points for the Hotshots while Jio Jalalon added 11.
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