STAR withstood a resilient GLobalPort side, 101-94, on Sunday night to advance to the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots squandered an early 21-point lead, but regained their bearings when it mattered most to frustrate the twice-to-beat Batang Pier after forcing a deciding quarterfinal game with a 126-73 rout last Friday.
The fifth-seeded Hotshots became only the eighth team to overcome a twice-to-win disadvantage against a higher-seeded squad in the playoffs as the two-time defending champions kept their title-retention bid alive.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” Hotshots coach Tim Cone said. “Great credit to coach Pido (Jarenceio) to get those guys turned around after that blowout loss in Game One.”
Do-it-all Marqus Blakely lived up to his reputation as a Best Import awardee anew, scattering a triple-double of 15 points, 16 boards, 11 assists, on top of four steals and three blocks for the Hotshots, who set up a Final Four meeting with top seed Alaska.
The best-of-five series tentatively starts on Wednesday also at the Big Dome.
For a while, though, the Hotshots had to endure anxious moments as they saw their 39-18 lead disappear in the third quarter where the Batang Pier started to find their groove and embarked on a searing run that allowed them to take the lead at 65-64 after a Stanley Pringle basket.
Although the Hotshots regained the lead, the Batang Pier stayed within striking distance and pounced on Star’s turnovers that translated into their transition offense.
GlobalPort took the lead anew at 71-70 after a tough short jumper by Jarrid Famous early in the fourth quarter, before the Hotshots finished the game with a back-breaking salvo that enabled them to regain comfortable margin for good, going up by as many as 14.
Alex Mallari and James Yap led the Hotshots’ late push as they tallied 17 points apiece to lead six teammates scoring at least eight points.
Famous bounced back from a 16-point, 15-rebound effort with 38 points and 21 boards, while Pringle chipped in 16 points and four assists. Terrence Romeo added 15 points, all in the last three quarters, but had to take 21 shots to reach his total.
STAR 101 – Mallari 17, Yap 17, Blakely 15, Simon 14, Devance 13, Taha 8, Barroca 6, Pingris 6, Melton 5, Pennisi 0
GLOBALPORT 94 – Famous 38, Pringle 16, Romeo 15, Krayem 9, Jensen 7, Buenafe 6, Kramer 3, Semerad 0, Miranda 0
Quarterscores: 21-16, 49-40, 70-65, 101-94