STAR refused to budge against a resilient Barangay Ginebra to eke out an 89-82 victory on Sunday night and keep its postseason hopes alive in the PBA Governors’ Cup before a huge crowd at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots saw an early 19-point lead disintegrate no thanks to a familiar Gin Kings fightback, but regrouped and hung tough in the homestretch to pull off the hard-earned victory.
“They did a great comeback…but we showed good character tonight,” Hotshots coach Tim Cone said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
Joe Devance went extra aggressive to come up with 26 points and eight boards, while import Marqus Blakely added 19 points and 19 rebounds for the Hotshots, who notched their first winning streak this conference and improved to a 3-4 win-loss card.
The Gin Kings fell to 3-5, but for a while, looked poised for a reversal as they climbed out of a 40-21 hole in the second quarter and even took a six-point lead halfway through the third canto as the marquee matchup started to live up to its billing to the delight of over 17,000 fans who trooped the Big Dome.
But when push came to shove, it was the Hotshots who got going as the defending champions regained the lead behind a stifling defense that limited the Gin Kings to just 35 percent (29-of-82) shooting.
“We created our offense from our defense,” said Cone, who drew solid defensive efforts from scorers James Yap and PJ Simon.
Devance, usually just a facilitator, took over offensively down the stretch as the versatile forward nine points in the final frame, most from the charity stripe that gave the Hotshots enough cushion.
Ginebra imports Orlando Johnson and Jiwan Kim hit respective three-pointers that nudged the Gin Kings to within four points on separate occasions in the endgame, only to fall short.
STAR 89 - Devance 26, Blakely 19, Barroca 12, Mallari 9, Simon 7, Yap 7, Taha 5, Reavis 2, Pingris 2, Pennisi 0
GINEBRA 82 – Johnson 35, Aguilar 18, Mercado 9, Kim 8, Slaughter 4, Caguioa 4, Tenorio 2, Urbiztondo 1, Marcelo 1, Pena 0, Helterbrand 0, Brondial 0
Quarterscores: 25-9, 42-34, 64-63, 89-82