PAUL Lee finally did for Star what he has done countless times for Rain or Shine, lifting the Hotshots to a 78-74 victory over Ginebra in the opener of the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals with a dramatic clutch basket on Thursday night.
The Hotshots star hit a spinning floater in the lane with the shotclock running down to give his team a four-point edge, moments after putting his team up for good with a three-pointer a few possessions back at the start of the best-of-seven series.
The high-scoring Hotshots stretched their winning streak to seven games, and after averaging a 27-point winning margin in that span, managed to emerge victorious in a close and low-scoring battle for a change.
“It’s all about our team effort, our team defense,” Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said. “We needed that mental toughness to win that game.”
Game Two is on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Hotshots’ defense certainly held the fort as no one from the Gin Kings scored more than 12 points, limiting them to 38-percent shooting from the field overall.
On offense, Lee shone brightest as he finished with a game-high 18 points on top of five boards, one assist, and one steal in 38 minutes, while backcourt partner Mark Barroca added 17 points, four rebounds, and two assists in 30 minutes.
Marc Pingris anchored the paint as he registered 12 boards, three blocks, and three steals, on top of nine points and five assists in 35 minutes as the Hotshots turned to the Pinoy Sakuragi down low down the stretch.
The ploy worked as Pingris hits two baskets and dished out an assist to Rafi Reavis, who scored a left-handed reverse layup that knotted the count at 71 and set up Lee’s heroics.
Chris Ellis led the Gin Kings with 12 points, but was scoreless in the payoff period, while LA Tenorio added eight markers, including a three-pointer that pulled his team to within two points before Lee retaliated with that dagger teardrop.
STAR 78 – Lee 18, Barroca 17, Pingris 9, Sangalang 8, Maliksi 7, Jalalon 6, Reavis 5, Melton 5, Dela Rosa 2, Ramos 1, Brondial 0
GINEBRA 74 – Aguilar 11, Ellis 12, Cruz 10, Mercado 10, Tenorio 8, Thompson 7, Ferrer 7, MArcelo 5, Mariano 4
Quarterscores: 14-19, 37-38, 60-58, 78-74