STAR turned the heat early on a rainy Sunday afternoon to completely dominate a sliding Barako Bull, 117-89, and enhance its bid for a Top Four finish in the PBA Governors Cup playoffs.
Import Marqus Blakely stood at the forefront of the Hotshots’ scorching start at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, exploding for 13 of his team-high 33 points in the first quarter points to set the tone for the Father’s Day rout.
The Hotshots also held the Energy to just seven points in the opening quarter and had everything under control by the time Mark Barroca hit a three-pointer for a 49-27 lead midway through the second period.
The defending champion reached the .500 mark with a 5-5 record and assured itself of a quarterfinals berth with one game remaining in its elimination round schedule against also-ran Blackwater on Tuesday.
More importantly, the 28-point winning margin over Barako could secure the Hotshots a place in the Top Four and a twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs in case they ended up tied for fourth place with the Energy (6-5) and Globalport (6-4).
“We played well from the very start,” said coach Tim Cone later. “At least we assured ourselves of the Top Eight with this win tonight.”
James Yap went 7-of-11 from the field to finish with 17 points, Peter June Simon had 15 and two other Hotshots finished in double figures in a balance-scoring for the team.
“It was a good all-around performance tonight. Everybody contributed,” said Cone, whose team had now won four of its last five game. “That’s what we’ve been looking forward to, that’s what we’ve been missing all this conference. It’s the right time to pick your stride.”
The loss was the fourth straight for Barako Bull, which once led the team standings but has now slipped to fifth place with a 6-5 record to end its elimination round assignment.
Worst, the setback was the second consecutive blowout for the Energy, who are coming off a 120-98 rout at the hands of Barangay Ginebra.
In all, the Energy lost their last two games by an average margin of 25 points.
“Dalawang sunod na yan after Ginebra,” said an exasperated Barako Bull coach Koy Banal said.
Star (117) - Blakely 33, Yap 17, Simon 15, Mallari 11, Maliksi 10, Barroca 8, Pingris 6, Devance 6, Pennisi 6, Melton 3, Taha 2, Reavis 0, Gaco 0.
Barako Bull (89) - McMorrow 23, Intal 14, Salva 11, Ababou 11, Lanete 9, Hubalde 7, Pascual 4, Wilson 4, Garcia 2, Chua 2, Sorongon 2, Forrester 0, Yeo 0, Salvador 0.
Quarterscores: 34-20; 58-37; 86-62; 117-89.