STAR displayed the sense of urgency that had been missing as of late as it dispatched Blackwater, 102-89, on Friday night to book a quarterfinal ticket in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Coming off a blowout loss to Barako Bull that put perennial playoff contenders’ bid in jeopardy, the Hotshots came out with a solid start and sustained their intensity throughout to roll to just their fourth victory in 11 games.
PJ Simon finally broke out of slump, firing a season-high 26 points to lead five Hotshots in double figures as they dealt the Elite their eighth loss in 10 games, leaving them in a must-win situation against Mahindra on Sunday.
“I’m very lucky to have players blessed with God’s-given talent, like PJ who can create,” Hotshots coach Jason Webb said.
Allein Maliksi, proving his issue over playing time is clearly behind him, also put on a brief scoring outburst as he finished with a season-high 13 points as he made all his four shots in just seven minutes of action.
But most of the spotlight was on Simon, the veteran gunner who had been firing blanks recently, the latest a scoreless outing in their loss to the Energy.
Simon immediately showed he has regained his touch, firing 11 of his total output in the first quarter.
Unlike Simon, Carlo Lastimosa relatively cooled down from his career-high 38-point performance as he wound up with 18 points, still good for team-high honors for the Elite.
Star 102 - Simon 26, Maliksi 13, Pingris 12, Barroca 11, Mallari 11, Taha 8, Yap 6, Melton 4, Sangalang 4, Reavis 3, Cruz 2, Torres 2.
Blackwater 89 - Lastimosa 18, Dela Cruz 17, Gamalinda 11, Cortez 10, Erram 10, Cervantes 9, Golla 8, Reyes 6, Ballesteros 0, Canada 0, Melano 0.
Quarterscores: 25-25, 52-42, 78-72, 102-89