Marc Barroca, Alex Mallari combine to end Mahindra threat, pump life into Star hopes
Star guard Mark Barroca splits the Mahindra defense. 

STAR went to the backcourt duo of Marc Barroca and Alex Mallari to pull off a grind-out 104-96 win over Mahindra that snapped the team’s losing skid in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Barroca played his best game so far in the all-Filipino conference with 26 points while Mallari complemented him with 20 in the all-important win that ended a four-game losing streak and revived the Hotshots’ bid for a playoff berth.

Barroca and Mallari made sure of that when the two made possible the game’s biggest play.

With the Hotshots protecting a slim 95-94 lead, Barroca pressed and stole the ball from Paolo Hubalde at the backcourt, setting up a streaking Mallari for an easy lay-up that stretched Stars’ lead to three with 1:46 left.

Star never looked back from there to improve its record to 3-6.

“I really don't know what the right term would be,” said an obviously relieved Star coach Jason Webb following the win. “There were a couple of games on that four-game losing streak that could have gone our way.”

This one appeared going Mahindra’s way as Aldrech Ramos and Karl Dehesa combined for 25 points in a sizzling fourth quarter performance. The Enforcers led 94-91, after Dehesa nailed the last of his four three-pointers for the night.

But Mallari and Barroca won’t let the Hotshots down. The 6-foot-4 Mallari completed a three-point play to regain for the Hotshots the lead, 95-94, before scoring on Barroca’s steal off Hubalde that finally turned the tide in the Hotshots’ favor.

“Hopefully kung san man kami nanggaling, hopefully we're back,” said Webb later after noting he wasn’t able to get inside the press room more often during the month of November.

The win by Star also gave TnT, Barako Bull, and NLEX an outright passage to the quarterfinals.

The loss put to naught the career games of both Ramos and Dehesa, who finished with 26 and 24 points, respectively. The lanky Ramos shot 3-of-5 from three-point range and added 12 rebounds.

The Enforcers fell to a 2-7 slate but remained in the running for a quarterfinal berth.

The loss was hampered further by the groin injury suffered by LA Revilla, who failed to finish the game and score just five points in 13 minutes of play.

The scores:

Star (104) - Barroca 26, Mallari 20, Yap 15, Simon 11, Pascual J. 10, Taha 6, Pingris 5, Sangalang 4, Melton 3, Cruz 2, Torres 2.

Mahindra (96) - Ramos 26, Dehesa 24, Pascual 11, Canaleta 8, Guinto 8,  Yee 8, Revilla 5, Digregorio 4, Hubalde 2, Alvarez 0, Pinto 0, Webb 0.


Quarterscores: 24-18; 46-42; 73-69; 104-96.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos