STAR counted on its 'bestfriend' again as it proved steadier against Barangay Ginebra again with a 91-89 victory on Saturday night to take a 2-0 lead in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series.
Hotshots star Paul Lee earlier referred to their stingy defense as their 'bestfriend,' which they turned to again in Game Two to prevail down the stretch in front of a huge crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Lee again came through at crunch time, scoring on a breakway layup that gave them a two-possession lead after Jio Jalalon put the Hotshots up for good, sparing them the blushes after wasting an early 10-point lead.
The Hotshots thus registered an eighth straight win and moved two wins away from a finals berth.
“It was all about heart, our desire, effort, aggressiveness, everything,” Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said. “I’m very proud sa mga players ko kasi hindi sila nag-give up.”
“We knew Ginebra would bounce back, but it was all about our heart,” he added.
Game Three is on Monday night also at the MOA Arena.
Lee finished with a team-high 17 points, including eight in the final frame, adding four boards, one assist, and one steal in 34 minutes, while Jalalon added nine points, five assists, three boards, and one steal. Fellow backcourt player Justin Melton added 11 points, five boards, one assist, and one steal in 30 minutes.
Allein Malikis went to work early and chipped in 14 points, four steals, and three rebounds, while Marc Pingris again anchored the Hotshots’ defense, tallying 10 points, eight boards, five assists.
The result spoiled the breakout showing of rookie Kevin Ferrer, who registered a game-high 25 points in 33 minutes as a starter.
Scottie Thompson went extra aggressive this time as he finished with 17 points, 10 boards, and six assists, and one steal, and scored the bank shot that pulled the Gin Kings to within two points, 89-87.
But the Gin Kings failed to make a stop on the other end, leading to committing a foul on Rafi Reavis, who buried his two charities to seal the deal.
STAR 91 – Lee 17, Maliksi 14, Melton 11, Pingris 10, Jalalon 9, Reavis 9, Barroca 8, Sangalang 6, Ramos 5, Dela Rosa 2, Simon 0, Brondial 0
GINEBRA 89 – Ferrer 25, Thompson 17, Aguilar 16, Tenorio 8, Mariano 7, Mercado 6, Cruz 2, Caguioa 2, Ellis 2, Taha 2, Helterbrand 2, Marcelo 0, Jamito 0
Quarterscores: 27-23, 50-45, 72-69, 91-89