ANTIPOLO – Three days after his fight in Macau, Manny Pacquiao showed up as promised here and turned a non-event to a big event.
Pacquiao’s presence electrified the crowd at the Ynares Sport Center and had the Kia Sorento playing an inspired game, dragging the reigning four-peat champs Purefoods Star Hotshots to a battle for over three quarters.
The Hotshots faced a tough challenge, and needed to work extra hard in the closing minutes to pull off an important 88-77 win and keep their rise in the PBA Philippine Cup.
“They’re definitely very inspired tonight. It’s tough to match their intensity and inspiration. They had that through the game,” said Purefoods coach Tim Cone.
“Lots of credit to the Kia players, their coaching staff and Manny Pacquiao. It’s just amazing he showed up three days after his fight. That’s incredible. Other would be laid down for months,” Cone also said.
Pacquiao joined the warm-up but opted to stay on the bench. Nonetheless, he inspired Kia to push Purefoods hard through 40 minutes.
“Pinakiramdaman ko yung sarili ko nong warmup. Eh ang feeling ko, parang lalagnatin ako,” said Pacquiao, drawing loud cheers on couples of treys he made in the shoot-around.
The Sorento led after the first three quarters, 57-51, and were still ahead at 63-58 before the Hotshots applied the press and sparked a huge salvo on Kia’s turnovers.
“It’s so important game to lose,” said Cone after they squeezed through with a fourth straight win.
With their fifth win in eight games in all, Purefoods caught up with Barangay Ginebra and Talk n Text at fourth place.
Joe Devance, Mark Barroca, James Yap and Alex Mallari put in double-digit outputs for the Hotshots who, in the end, sent the Sorento reeling with an eighth straight loss.
Kia fought Purefoods stride for stride and basket for basket to force a 34-all standoff at the half.
In their strongest start in a game, the Sorento even took the early initiative, enjoying the lead in the first four minutes before the Hotshots raced ahead, 11-5, on 11 unanswered points.
In each of the first two quarters, the Sorento made the last basket to tie.
Kyle Pascual put back a missed jumper by LA Revilla to make it 34-all. Kia even gained possession in the last six seconds of the first half, but Revilla missed a 15-footer at the buzzer.
And Kia stayed in the battle until Purefoods found a way to break through in the closing minutes. (SB)
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