THE real Star squad finally showed up and frustrated a struggling Talk ‘N Text, 105-93, on Tuesday night to stay alive in the PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinal race at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots fell behind early, but finally displayed the sense of urgency that had been missing in previous games as the two-time defending champions leaned on a strong finish kick to prevail over their archrivals.
Marqus Blakely bounced back from a lackluster effort while Joe Devance kept being aggressive offensively for the Hotshots, who found a huge spark from Justin Melton and also turned to an old reliable in PJ Simon.
“We treated it like a Game Seven,” Hotshots coach Tim Cone said. “And it seemed like whenever their backs are against the wall, their focus is uncanny.”
The Hotshots and the Texters thus swapped places in the 12-team standings with Star climbing to eighth at 4-5— the last playoff spot — and TnT falling to ninth after suffering their fifth loss in six games and sixth in all against four wins.
Blakely, coming off a conference lows in points (13) and minutes (36) in their blowout loss to Rain or Shine where he also put up just 10 boards, three assists, two steals, and one block, against five turnovers, finished with 26 points, 16 boards, five assists, six blocks, two steals, and only one error in 42 minutes this time.
Devance, usually just a facilitator, added 19 points as he made all but one of his eight shots, highlighted by a perfect 4-of-4 clip from beyond the arc – the last conversion that gave Star its biggest lead at 105-8 – in just 25 minutes.
But it was the pint-sized Melton who stood tallest, firing nine of his 16 points in the payoff period to spearhead the Hotshots’ breakaway where Simon contributed six of his 15 markers.
Ranidel de Ocampo paced the Texters with 21 points while Larry Fonacier added 20 markers, including 10 in the first quarter where the Texters started strong as they established a 12-point cushion only to give it up at the half.
STAR 105 – Blakely 26, Devance 19, Melton 16, Simon 15, Mallari 11, Pingris 8, Barroca 5, Yap 5
TNT 93 – De Ocampo 21, Fonacier 20, Pettigrew 18, Castro 17, Daghles 7, Williams 4, Washington 2, Rosser 2, Seigle 2, Carey 0, Reyes Ryan 0
Quarterscores: 20-25, 45-44, 73-65, 105-93