Chito Victolero. MARLO CUETO/

Magnolia coach Chito Victolero is hopeful that their first winning streak is a sign that a difficult start to their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup campaign is finally behind his Hotshots.

And what he wants from his charges, who on Sunday posted a 107-93 victory over the Phoenix Fuel Masters at Ninoy Aquino Stadium to move up fourth in the standings, is to keep on preparing and playing hard.“Even if you’re the best, the No. 1 team or the elite team, if you’re not prepared, you’ll have a hard time to win,” Victolero said.

Magnolia improved to 3-2 to cap off another week that came after being blown out by NLEX at the same venue, before the Hotshots defeated the NorthPort Batang Pier, 104-97, four nights earlier.

Momentum seems to be on the side of the Hotshots, whose next games are against the skidding Blackwater Bossing on Wednesday, also at Ninoy, and an out-of-town affair with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Saturday in Tiaong, Quezon.

Also benefiting them are the recent addition of Jerrick Balanza, traded from Converge in exchange for next season’s second round draft pick, and the return of Aris Dionisio after being sidelined in the previous three matches with a sprained ankle.

Rome dela Rosa is close to resuming his duties after also dealing with the same injury Dionisio sustained, and might play either against Blackwater or Rain or Shine, depending on how he progresses during practice.

Still, Magnolia hopes to address the things that led to the inconsistent start, and even during its recent victories.

As seen on Sunday, the Hotshots led by 10 to end the first quarter before allowing the Fuel Masters to drop 39 in the second and outscore them by 20 to go into halftime trailing 57-47.

1-2 punch

It took a collective second-half effort powered by Mark Barroca and Ian Sangalang to put the Hotshots back and eventually defeat the team they met for the first time since their semifinal meeting in the Commissioner’s Cup.Barroca tied his career-high with 27 points while Sangalang followed up his 32-point performance against NorthPort by posting 23 on top of nine rebounds and five assists.

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“We want to instill to the players the proper mindset of competing every single day in practice, so that we can carry that into our games,” said Victolero. “Look what happened in the second quarter, we gave up 39 points and it’s not us, it’s not how we play.”Phoenix fell to 2-5, falling short of creating a three-way share of ninth with Meralco and Blackwater.

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Veteran guard RJ Jazul had 21 points and five assists for the Fuel Masters. INQ

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