STAR survived a barrage of three-pointers by KG Canaleta to score a come-from-behind 96-90 win and get back on track in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
The Hotshots went to import Tony Mitchell, Mark Barroca, and rookie Jio Jalalon to turn the tables on the Elite who controlled three-fourths of the way behind the hot-shooting hands of Canaleta.
The 35-year-old shooting forward finished with 27 points including 7 of 12 from three-point range, although the heroics were not enough to prevent Blackwater from going down further in the standings with a 1-6 record at the end of the Petron Saturday Special at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Hotshots, meanwhile, stopped a two-game skid and improved to 5-2 going to the All-Star break.
“Kailangan naming ipanalo ito going to the All-Star break dahil two weeks kaming break,” said Star coach Chito Victolero.
Mitchell topscored for the Hotshots with 17 points despite arriving for the game late due to traffic, and added 15 rebounds. But he fouled out again for the second straight game.
“Yun lang ang kailangang i-adjust ni Tony, yung how to play defense na hindi niya kailangang ma-foul,” Victolero stressed.
Paul Lee complemented the Hotshots import with 15 points, Jalalon added 13, while Allein Maliksi and Justin Melton had 10 each for Star, which is coming off back-to-back losses against Barangay Ginebra and San Miguel.
For a moment, everything was not going right the Hotshots’ way as Canaleta waxed hot early on. The big man from University of the East already had 19 at the half and 27 in the third when the Elite enjoyed as much as a 68-59 lead.
But Star turned on the switch in the final quarter when it opened the period with an 11-2 run that erased a five-point deficit and gave the team a 76-72 advantage it would never relinquish.
Canaleta fizzled out during that rampage by the Hotshots even as import Greg Smith tried to carry the fight for the Elite when he scored 11 of his 22 points in the final quarter. He also finished with a game-high 29 rebounds.
STAR (96) - Mitchell 17, Lee 15, Jalalon 13, Melton 10, Maliksi 10, Sangalang 9, Barroca 9, Reavis 6, Dela Rosa 4, Simon 3, Javier 0, Brondial 0.
BLACKWATER (90) - Canaleta 27, Smith 22, DiGregorio 11, Pascual 8, Sena 8, Cruz 6, Pinto 4, Gamalinda 2, Cervantes 2, Buenafe 0.
Quarterscores: 21-23, 48-42, 65-70, 96-90.