Magnolia ends losing spell, romps Phoenix for first win

Magnolia ended the dry spell that struck the team, finally barging into the win column with a dominant 108-95 victory over Phoenix in the 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, Feb. 10.

Antonio Hester makes a resounding return with 28 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and four steals. (PBA Images)

The Hotshots stepped their foot on the gas pedal during a furious second quarter rally where they outscored the Fuel Masters 35-15 to rip the game wide open and pick up their first win after absorbing three straight losses to open the season-ending conference.

Magnolia’s import change from Eric McCree to Antonio Hester immediately worked wonders as the burly forward manned the interior defense for the Hotshots who were badly needing an anchor with star big man Ian Sangalang still sidelined.

Hester, who previously played for Terrafirma, announced his return with 28 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and four steals while Mark Barroca and Calvin Abueva obviously took advantage of the defense Hester was attracting, finishing with 19 and 18 points, respectively.

“We changed a lot of our movement especially yung offensive scheme namin because without Ian, we don’t have any post threat, that’s why we got this guy to open up the floor and to give a chance to our guards to get their shots,” said Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero.

We just need a game-changer like Hest who can turn things around. Medyo nag-adjust pa ito, good thing, three days practice with us ‘yung offensive and defensive schemes nagawa niya agad,” he added.

It was actually Hester who conspired with Jerrick Ahanmisi and Abueva when Magnolia unloaded a telling 18-1 blast early in the second quarter that turned a slim 25-24 lead into a huge 43-25 advantage. Magnolia never looked back from there and even stretched the lead to its largest at 27, 63-36, early in the second half.

Jason Perkins paced Phoenix with 20 points while Du’Vaughn Maxwell, who was reportedly nursing an injury, could only muster 11 points – his lowest output in 10 games with the Fuel Masters although he still collared 13 rebounds.

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