ANTIPOLO – Star flaunted its potential as it annihilated Meralco, 120-73, on Saturday at the Ynares Center to book a quarterfinal ticket in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The Hotshots came out with guns blazing while also delivering on the defensive end of the floor as they zoomed to an early lead and never looked back to end up with the biggest winning margin this conference – and eighth all-time in league history.
Allein Maliksi picked up from where he left off from their last game, firing 25 points highlighted by five triples in just 20 minutes to spearhead the onslaught for Hotshots, who jacked up their win-loss record to 6-4 to stay in the running for the second seed that comes with a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
The Bolts, on the other hand, failed to ride the momentum of their stunning win over Rain or Shine last time as they finished the conference at 3-8.
“I challenged my players na we need to be mentally tough kasi nakakatakot yung Meralco. Pangalwa, yung pressure wala na masyado,” Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said of the Bolts.
“But I know my players are veterans and they step up in these kinds of games,” he added.
True enough, the Hotshots refused to pull their punches against the eliminated Bolts, pouncing on their listless opponents to establish and maintain a comfortable lead that ballooned to hand the Bolts their worst defeat in club history.
As a result, the Hotshots surpassed the most lopsided result in this all-Filipino tournament, a record they also owned when they dealt Phoenix a 44-point beating last December.
Coming in averaging 13.7 points and scoring 26 in their win over Blackwater last Wednesday, Maliksi already exceeded his average at the half where he scored 17, before adding eight more in the third quarter to end up just four points shy of his career high.
Paul Lee and Jio Jalalon added 15 points, while five others chipped in at least eight points each for the Hotshots, who shot 56 percent from the field and limited the Bolts to just 38% shooting.
No one would’ve finished in double-digit scoring for Bolts had Chris Newsome not score 10 of his 13 points in the final frame.
STAR 120 – Maliksi 25, Lee 15, Jalalon 15, Ramos 13, Melton 10, Barroca 10, Sangalang 10, Abundo 8, Reavis 4, De Leon 3, Abundo 3, Dela Rosa 2, Brondial 2, Pingris 0
MERALCO 73 – Newsome 13, Al Hussaini 9, Hugnatan 7, Amer 7, Uyloan 6, Caram 6, Grey 5, Chua 4, Faundo 4, Dillinger 4, Daquioag 3, Hodge 3, Yeo 2, Nabong 0
Quarterscores: 28-19, 63-31, 90-43, 120-73