STAR came through in the face of adversity, turning back Tropang TNT, 96-88, to revive its postseason bid in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Still trying to build chemistry with new import Ricardo Ratliffe, the Hotshots erased an early 18-point deficit and proved steady come crunch time as they got back on the winning track and tied their victims with a 2-4 win-loss slate.
Allein Maliksi provided a huge spark off the bench, leading the Hotshots’ early comeback and also delivering down the stretch to finish with a career-high 29 points in 31 minutes for his team, which tied their victims with a 2-4 win-loss slate and moved out of the cellar.
“In the first quarter, I didn’t think I had a chance to be here,” Hotshots coach Jason Webb said in the post-game conference. “Credit my guys who showed the fortitude to come back.”
Maliksi almost singlehandedly lifted the Hotshots out of a 31-13 hole as he caught fire in the second quarter where he scattered 18 points.
The former University of Santo Tomas standout ended up with making all six triples to match a league record for most three-point makes without a miss, joining a list of six players, including Glenn Capacio, Dondon Hontiveros, Vic Pablo, and Renren Ritualo.
Two of Maliksi’s treys came within the last two minutes, one that put the Hotshots up, 92-87 at the 1:05 mark and the other at the buzzer.
Ratliffe, who replaced Denzel Bowles, finished with 23 points, 13 boards, and four assists in 38 minutes.
Jayson Castro paced the Texters with 18 points, but missed two crucial charities and a stab from point-blank range down the stretch.
STAR 96 - Maliksi 29, Ratliffe 23, Yap 10, Melton 8, Barroca 6, Pascual J. 6, Pingris 6, Pascual R. 3, Simon 3, Reavis 2, Sanggalang 0, Taha 0.
TROPANG TNT 88 - Castro 18, De Ocampo 15, Simon 12, Ababou 11, Tautuaa 11, Fonacier 6, Rosser 6, Williams 4, Reyes 3, Rosario 2, Aban 0.
Quarters: 13-26, 51-51, 66-73, 96-88