Unbeaten Star asserts mastery of Phoenix as Marc Pingris returns from injury
Star guard Mark Barroca escapes with a layup against Phoenix's defense. Jaime Campos

STAR asserted its mastery of Phoenix, coasting to a 100-81 victory on Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena to sustain its surge despite a long layoff in the PBA Governors’ Cup.

The Hotshots, who have been unbeaten against the Fuel Masters this season, winning their first four meeting with an average of 28.5 points, saw the same script in their latest faceoff as they established an early lead and pulled away in the second half.

Malcolm Hill continued to show that the Hotshots can thrive with a perimeter-oriented import, tallying 20 points, eight boards, four assists, and two steals in leading his team to their fourth straight victory, keeping the status as the only undefeated team left in the conference.

Paul Lee added 18 points, embellished by four triples, the last coming from way beyond the arc at the one-minute, 29-second mark that tied their biggest lead at 100-80 and proved to be the exclamation point.

Marc Pingris also surprisingly made his return after being sidelined for almost half a year, seeing action in garbage time for the Hotshots, who dealt the Fuel Masters their fifth straight loss against two wins.

“It’s total team effort. I’m proud of the way we played defense,” Star coach Chito Victolero said. “We prepared hard for this game because we had a nineteen-day break.”

“We had a lot of breakdowns in the second quarter, but we recovered in the second half,” he added.

Aldrech Ramos, Mark Barroca Allein Maliksi, and Ian Sangalang also scored in double digits for the Hotshots, who dished out 18 assists, seven more than the Fuel Masters had, and forced the Fuel Masters to 25 turnovers, committing just nine.

Brandon Brown led the Fuel Masters with a game-high 33 points and 23 boards in almost 45 minutes, but the stand-in import committed 10 errors and found little help from the locals outside Jeff Chan’s 14 markers.


The scores:

STAR 100 – Hill 20, Lee 18, Ramos 13, Sangalang 11, Maliksi 11, Barroca 11, Brondial 4, Reavis 4, Dela Rosa 3, Melton 3, Simon 2, Mendoza 0, Javier 0, Pingris 0, Abundo 0

PHOENIX 81 – Brown 33, Chan 14, Intal 8, Jazul 6, Eriobu 5, Dehesa 4, Alolino 4, Kramer 4, J. Wilson 2, Hayes 1, Ababou 0

Quarterscores: 24-17, 49-44, 77-64, 100-81

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos