STAR looked like it could’ve been seeded higher and up against a team it had to beat only once as it proved no match against Rain or Shine, 118-82, to take Game One of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal series on Monday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots finished the eliminations with the same record as top two seeds Ginebra and San Miguel Beer, but dropped to third owing to quotient and settling for a best-of-three series against the Elasto Painters.
Yet Star encountered token resistance from the E-Painters as they broke away early for their sixth straight win to sustain their status as the tournament’s hottest team.
Ricardo Ratliffe anchored the Hotshots with 29 points and eight boards in just three quarters as they moved a win from reaching the semifinals against the winner of the SMB-Phoenix pairing.
“We had a proper mindset,” Star coach Chito Victolero said. “This is the playoffs and I challenged them to step up their level.”
“Pero defending champion kasi ‘to so hindi namin pwede balewalain,” he added of the E-Painters.
Game Two is on Wednesday night also at the Big Dome.
Ratliffe poured in 16 of his output in the third quarter as the hardworking import didn’t have to see action in the final frame where the Hotshots’ lead ballooned to 41 points, 114-73, late in the period.
Allein Maliksi led five locals who scored in double figures with 16 points, three assists, two boards, two steals, and one block in just 22 minutes off the bench, while Aldrech Ramos added 15 points even after going scoreless in the first quarter.
Ian Sangalang chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds. Mark Barroca had 11 points and seven assists, while Jio Jalalon was the other player in twin-digit scoring with 11 markers, seven boards, three assists, one steal, and one block.
Paul Lee facilitated the offense against his former team, dishing out 10 assists and missing out on a double-double by just one point.
Duke Crews led the E-Painters with 19 points and 13 boards, but drew little help outside Beau Belga, who added 18 points and four boards.
STAR 118 – Ratliffe 29, Maliksi 16, Ramos 15, Sangalang 12, Barroca 11, Jalalon 11, Lee 9, Simon 6, Abundo 5, Javier 2, Melton 2, Reavis 0, Mendoza 0, Brondial 0
ROS 82 – Crews 19, Belga 18, Tolomia 9, Chan 5, Yap 5, Tiu 6, Washington 4, Almazan 4, Cruz 4, Norwood 3, Trollano 3, Ponferada 2, Maiquez 0, Robles 0
Quarterscores: 26-23, 61-40, 95-64, 118-82