Sizzling Star sustains mastery over Phoenix with 31-point rout to move on verge of semifinals
Paul Lee led the sizzling Hotshots attack with 22 points. Jaime Campos

LOOKING like he was about to fumble a pass from Mark Barroca, Mon Abundo grips the leather, eludes two defenders then scores on a layup late in the third quarter, drawing the loudest cheers from the Star gallery on Saturday.

You know it’s that kind of a night for the Hotshots when their least-used guard gets into the scoresheet.

The Hotshots sustained their dominance in the PBA and over Phoenix as it coasted to a 114-83 victory at the Mall of Asia Arena to move on the verge of securing semifinal spot in the PBA Philippine Cup.

Winning their last three games by an average margin of 38.3 points, the Hotshots coasted to another blowout win, turning it up a notch in the second half to embarrass the Fuel Masters in Game One of their best-of-three quarterfinal series.

It was the same Fuel Masters team the Hotshots handed a 44-point beating in their elimination-round meeting. And they can finish them off in Game Two on Monday at the Big Dome.

Paul Lee and Marc Pingris shone brightest this time for the Hotshots, while Abundo and the rest of the players in uniform registered in the scoring column.

The Hotshots were motivated after letting Phoenix rookie sensation Matthew Wright score 14 of his 19 points in the second quarter as the Fuel Masters nurtured a six-point halftime lead.

“Nung uminit si Wright, na-frustrate kami, naapektuhan depensa namin, so at the half, I talked to them na hindi palaging tambakan,” Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said. “We have to start on defense and focus on little things.

“So it’s all about our defense again,” he added after his team held the Fuel Masters to 36-percent shooting after making just 27 of their 76 shots.

The Hotshots turned the game around and pulled away in the third quarter where they outscored the Fuel Masters, 37-13, before maintaining a huge lead that ballooned to 37 points late in the final frame.

Lee registered a game-high 22 points, four boards, and four assists in 24 minutes, while Pingris tallied 11 points – after scoring just two points in the last two games – on top of 14 boards, four blocks, and three assists in 29 minutes off the bench.

Allein Maliksi cooled down, but still finished in double-digit scoring with 11 points in 25 minutes for the Hotshots, who prevailed despite missing veteran PJ Simon for the third straight game, with a flu this time.

Wright scored just two points in the second half after firing 17 in the first two quarters, while Karl Dehesa and Doug Kramer added 10 and nine markers, respectively, in their debut for the Fuel Masters in a losing effort.

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The scores: 

STAR 114 – Lee 22, Sangalang 17, Melton 12, Maliksi 11, Pingris 10, Ramos 9, Jalalon 9, Reavis 7, Javier 4, Barroca 4, Dela Rosa 3, De Leon 2, Abundo 2, Brondial 2

PHOENIX 83 – Wright 19, Baguio 12, Dehesa 10, Intal 9, Kramer 9, Borboran 7, Alolino 8, Caperal 3, Enciso 2, Torres 2, W. Wilson 2, Hayes 0, Lanete 0

Quarterscores: 22-15, 45-52, 82-64, 114-83 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos