Magnolia, undefeated in three PBA Commissioner’s Cup starts, believes fans will get a different taste of the professional league’s most famous rivalry as Barangay Ginebra has to cope without Justin Brownlee.
“I think the taste of the Manila Clasico will be different because Justin won’t be able to play,” coach Chito Victolero said after the Hotshots prepared to compete with a 112-74 victory at the NorthPort Batang Pier at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday.
But other than that, the fireworks will remain the same.
“But [the] A Clasico is still a Clasico,” Victolero continued. “We expect a very difficult match on Sunday and a large crowd. We see this as a Sunday game for the players to give their all against Ginebra.
This will be the first time in a while that Magnolia will face a Ginebra team that won’t have Brownlee in the sibling matchup. In fact, watching Ginebra play without Brownlee will take some getting used to.
And everyone began to imagine what it would be like late Friday when Tony Bishop temporarily replaced Brownlee while he awaited the verdict for failing a drug test at the Hangzhou Asian Games while preparing for Ginebra’s season opener against Converge.
A win in Sunday’s matchup against the league’s most beloved team will give Magnolia a perfect conference streak while boosting its confidence in its quest to win its first PBA title since the 2018 Governors’ Cup.
A key factor in the Hotshots’ victory was import Tyler Bey, who once again recorded a solid 25 points, eight rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks. The matchup with Ginebra will be a key test for the young former NBA player for the Dallas Mavericks as Magnolia hopes to continue winning.
“He helps a lot with his energy and physicality, both offensively and defensively,” Victolero said. “I think there are still a few things we need to address, but he’s fine. His progress is better.”
Mark Barroca and Paul Lee, who were among the key figures in Magnolia’s match against Ginebra, performed as usual as Magnolia relied on a quick attack in the first quarter to thwart NorthPort.
Magnolia finished the first quarter on a 28-8 run and at one point led by 38, handing NorthPort its first loss after starting 2-0.
Arvin Tolentino, responsible for the impressive start, scored 22 points, seven rebounds and two assists for the Batang Pier team.
Import Venky Jois added 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals for NorthPort.