STAR’s playmakers shone brightest when it mattered most in frustrating Alaska, 102-98, in an overtime thriller on Wednesday night as the Hotshots head into the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs with plenty of steam.
Paul Lee sparked the comeback from 21 points down before Justin Melton completed it with the go-ahead triple as the Hotshots hammered out their ninth victory in 11 games to grab the provisional hold of the top spot, although they can still drop to third place depending on the results on Friday.
The Hotshots also handed the Aces their seventh straight loss – now their longest losing streak in franchise history – after starting the conference with four successive wins as they denied their victims of clinching the postseason outright.
“I knew Alaska will come out strong and we had a bad start, but it showed the team’s character,” Star coach Chito Victolero said. “We knew we were already in the playoffs, but it’s up to us kung hanggang san pa kami.”
“I’m very proud of my players for not giving up,” he added.
Lee came off the bench to fire 18 points, including eight straight in a stretch that started their revival early in the fourth quarter before Ricardo Ratliffe and Aldrech Ramos chipped in to erase a 73-52 deficit, even taking a five-point lead to have a chance to win the game in regulation.
Melton then hit the biggest shot in the extra session – a three-pointer from top of the key off Lee in a second-chance play that gave them the lead for good at 100-98 with 26 seconds left – negating Calvin Abueva’ tough layup in the previous possession that had given the Aces their last taste of the lead.
Ratliffe iced the game with two charities – capping off another workmanlike effort that saw him finish with 35 points, 28 boards, five blocks, and three assists in 49 minutes on the court.
Cory Jefferson scored the Aces’ last eight points in regulation, the last two from the foul line that knotted the count at 98, but missed a triple as time expired that forge overtime.
STAR 102 – Ratliffe 35, Lee 18, Melton 12, Sangalang 10, Jalalon 7, Ramos 7, Reavis 4, Simon 4, Maliksi 3, Barroca 2, Abundo 0, Brondial 0
ALASKA 98 – Abueva 22, Jefferson 21, Banchero 19, Racal 13, Thoss 9, Manuel 6, Exciminiano 4, Enciso 2, Hontiveros 2, Pascual 0, Galliguez 0
Quarterscores: 14-26, 34-47, 56-73, 89-89, 102-98