Star relies on Ratliffe might and muscle to bring down Meralco, grab solo PBA lead
Star import Ricardo Ratliffe battles Meralco's Alex Stepheson for positioning. Jerome Ascano

STAR showed who the best defensive team in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup is as it frustrated Meralco, 108-90, to grab the solo lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The Hotshots, who came in second behind the Bolts in the points-allowed department, proved they were better at least on this night as they held the Bolts scoreless for more than seven minutes at the start of the payoff period to pull away.

Ricardo Ratliffe was again the anchor down low, tallying 32 points and 13 boards for the Hotshots, who won for the eighth time in 10 games to break a tie with their victims, who fell to a 7-3 win-loss record.

“I told my players it was going to be a defensive game,” Star coach Chito Victolero said. “Proper mindset and mental toughness were very important. We played for forty-eight minutes.”

“We did a good job on Stepheson,” the young coach added, referring to Bolts import Alex Stepheson, who was held to just nine points and nine boards in 31 minutes.

It was another guard-oriented attack by the Hotshots locals as Paul Lee paced them with 16 points, four assists, two boards, and ones steal, while Mark Barroca added 12 points, four assists, and two rebounds.

Allein Maliksi and Jio Jalalon, in their first game since playing for Gilas Pilipinas, also scored in twin digits for the Hotshots, who  led by as many as 21 points, 98-77, following a Ratliffe layup that capped a telling 17-2 run to start the fourth period.

The Bolts had been scoreless in the final frame before Kelly Nabong finally ended the dry spell with a midrange jumper with a little over five minutes left, but they were still down by 16 points then.

It didn’t help the Bolts that Stepehson was also unavailable as he went out with over six minutes left after picking up his sixth foul.

The result put to waste an all-around effort from Chris Newsome, who registered 25 points, eight assists, seven boards, and three steals.


The scores:

STAR 108 – Ratliffe 32, Lee 16, Barroca 12, Maliksi 11, Jalalon 10, Sangalang 8, Simon 7, Brondial 3, Reavis 3, Abundo 2, Melton 2, Ramos 2, Dela Rosa 0, Javier 0

MERALCO 90 – Newsome 25, Nabong 17, Dillinger 15, Stepheson 9, Caram 9, Hodge 5, Amer 4, Chua 2, Daquioag 2, Hugnatan 2, Lanete 0, Uyloan 0, Faundo 0

Quarterscores: 27-15, 54-45, 81-75, 108-90

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos