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Seasoned Magnolia faces young Phoenix

Photograph Courtesy of PBA

It’s going to be experience versus youth when Magnolia faces Phoenix Super LPG in a best-of-five semifinal encounter in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup starting today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Hotshots have the experience, but head coach Chito Victolero wants his wards to keep up against the Fuel Masters, who are tipped to bank on their youthful energy to win their first ever PBA title.

“We have to worry on what’s in front of us first and that’s Phoenix, a very young team,” Magnolia coach Chito Victolero said.

“But we felt we had made the right decision of bringing in youthful players to provide the balance we need in the team right in the off season by tapping a young, talented and hardworking import in Tyler Bey, and acquiring young players like Abu Tratter and David Murrell through trades.”

Bey is a 25-year-old, do-it-all import and his energy level is somewhat a good fit to the Hotshots system while Tratter and Murrell bring in toughness and athleticism off the bench.

Since winning the championship in the 2018 Commissioner’ Cup, the Hotshots have been struggling to win a title.

The core composed of Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang and 46-year-old Rafi Reavis, the league’s oldest player, is no longer getting any younger so there’s a pressing need for the Hotshots to nail a crown this year.

But Victolero believes the entry of their new players had somehow deepened their rotation.

“I see the core of our veteran players to have at least two or three good years together, so we believe our chances of winning another championship starts now,” he said.

“But these veteran players will soon pave the way for our younger players, which was similarly shown by our previous veteran players like Marc Pingris and PJ Simon.”

But getting there won’t be easy as the Hotshots need to get past the unpredictable Fuel Masters.

Jamike Jarin, who cut his teeth handling the Ateneo de Manila University juniors team, is coaching the team in his first full season, giving him enough motivation to bring the best out of his wards.

The Fuel Masters brought in Jonathan Williams to help the young core of Tyler Tio, Ken Tuffin, Jason Perkins and Ricci Rivero.

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