THE smallest man on the floor stood tallest as Star added to the misery of NLEX with a 105-103 squeaker in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup matchup on Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Jio Jalalon caught a pass from Tony Mitchell, eluded the defense of Garvo Lanete, then launched the midrange jumper from the right corner that found the bottom of the net at the buzzer as he broke the hearts of the Road Warriors after their gallant stand.
The 5-foot-6 Jalalon saw his teammates rushing and mobbing him after he lifted the Hotshots to their third straight victory while keeping the Road Warriors winless after four outings.
“The instruction was we needed to get a stop and kung maka-recover kami, I called a play for Paul or Jio,” Hotshots coach Chito Victoloro said as they made a stop in the previous NLEX play where Rabeh Al-Hussaini took matters into his own hands and missed a hook.
“I reminded my players to stay focused and don’t look at the score,” he added amid the NLEX rally. Na-outhustle kami at outplayed kami ng NLEX in the third quarter, so nakabalik sila.”
“But I’m very happy that they stepped up on defense, especially our import,” he continued. “He’s in foul trouble buong laro, but he stepped up in the last seven minutes.”
After all, despite carrying five fouls, Mitchell still managed to close the game out and scatter 15 of his 23 points in the final frame, before finding Jalalon at the corner for the game-winner.
Mitchell completed his all-around play with 15 boards, two assists, two blocks, and one steal in 29 minutes as he took over after Allein Maliksi did in the first three quarters where the latter scored his team-high 24 points.
But the night belonged to Jalalon, who finished with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, six boards, four assists, and four steals, against only one turnover in 25 minutes of play.
Wayne Chism paced the Road Warriors with 33 points, 19 rebounds, five assists, and one block that went for naught.
STAR 105 – Maliksi 24, Mitchell 23, Jalalon 16, Simon 13, Sangalang 9, Ramos 5, Lee 5, Reavis 4, Barroca 4, Javier 2, Melton 0, Mendoza 0, Dela Rosa 0
NLEX 103 – Chism 33, Lastimosa 13, Alas 9, Lanete 9, Tiongson 7, Rios 6, Taulava 6, Al-Hussaini 6, Guinto 5, Monfort 4, J. Villanueva 3, Baracel 2, Camson 0, Soyud 0, Khobuntin 0
Quarterscores: 23-15, 51-34, 75-74, 105-103