THE bragging right of being the best performing ballclub in the PBA On Tour exhibition games belongs to the Magnolia Chicken Timplados.
The Hotshots earned that badge after scoring a runaway 103-88 victory over Rain or Shine in their road game on Saturday, July 15, at the Lamberto Macias Sports and Cultural Center in Dumaguete City.
The Hotshots pulled away for good on the strength of their 21-5 offensive salvo in the final period as they stayed unbeaten in nine preseason games.
The Elasto Painters fell to 6-2 in the exhibition series, half a game ahead of the Blackwater Bossing’s 6-3 card, while the Meralco Bolts carried a 6-4 ledger.
Regardless of the results in the last two games versus Phoenix Super LPG and Terrafirma, Magnolia will still finish at the top of the heap.
“The important thing now is our players are getting to know each other more. And we are trying to be as good as we can (in the preseason). In fact, you can see the good rapport of the players,” Magnolia team governor Rene Pardo told The Manila Times.
The Magnolia team executive also lauded young slotman James Laput, whose offseason work has yielded marked improvement on his game.
Coming into the road game in Dumaguete, the 6-foot-10 Laput averaged over 13 points and 11 rebounds per contest.
The former La Salle and Young Harris College alum contributed eight points, seven boards and two assists in the team’s win over Rain or Shine.
“He’s (Laput) really worked on his game. He trains hard and he goes to the weights room,” said Pardo. “He’ll be our prime defender against (San Miguel slotman) June Mar (Fajardo) because his size is what we need so that we could pair up with Ian (Sangalang).”
Pardo said things are looking good for the team thus far, especially with Calvin Abueva also back in harness after dealing with knee issues in recent months.
While Abueva seemed rusty on offense, the undersized forward hardly missed a beat on the rebounding department after collaring 10 boards on Saturday.
That marked the second straight time Abueva finished in double figures in rebounding after snaring 16 in Magnolia’s 94-65 rout of San Miguel Beer last week during his PBA on Tour debut.
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