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Hotshots ground Batang Pier

MANILA, Philippines — In-form Magnolia transformed what’s expected as a tight battle for PBA Commissioner’s Cup leadership with fellow unbeaten NorthPort into the new season’s most lopsided contest.

Their stifling defense fuelling a sizzling offensive, the Hotshots ran the Batang Pier to the ground, 112-74, to make it three-for-three yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Hotshots turned on full power the very moment the opening tip was made.

With a 28-8 start, Chito Victolero’s forces set the tone against the Batang Pier, who bled for every point all game and struggled to keep up with the former’s blistering run.

Magnolia choked NorthPort to a lowly 3-of-18 field goal (16.7 percent) in the first 12 minutes of action while making 10-of-17 (58.8 percent) of its own.

The Hotshots kept the same merciless approach for the next three quarters.

At halftime, they held a 26-point lead, then they stretched it to 34 after three before settling on a 38-point winning margin.

“Nagbi-build kami ng killer’s instinct kasi everytime na up kami noong pre-season at tuneup, may tendency na mag-relax. Na-realize namin kailangan pumukpok pa kami at maging consistent kasi yun ang magiging advantage namin sa ibang teams,” Mark Barroca said.

Barroca was one of the brightest stars in Magnolia’s dispatching of the Batang Pier (2-1) with 17 points. Import Tyler Bey (25 plus eight rebounds and six assists), Paul Lee (16, all from beyond the arc, with six dimes), Jio Jalalon (11) and Ian Sangalang (11) joined the Magnolia honor roll.

“As long as we share the ball and make equal opportunities, we’ll be fine,” said Victolero. “The players were so focused and they carried the mindset that we needed to play for 48 minutes against this team because it would be a hard game.”

The Hotshots lessened the difficulty by limiting Arvin Tolentino, who erupted for 35 in their previous game, to 22, most of them scored when the game was beyond NorthPort’s reach. Tolentino went scoreless in the first, coughed two in the second then made five before going on a 15-point outburst in the fourth.

Magnolia also limited Vanky Jois to 16 after games of 43 and 30.