STAR sustained its momentum heading in the playoffs as turned back NLEX, 101-93, to keep its slim chances of a Top Four berth alive in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots erased an early double-digit deficit, turning the game around in the third quarter before proving steadier down the stretch to deny the Road Warriors of a Top Four spot after ending the eliminations tied with their victims at 7-4.
The Hotshots secured the fourth after Meralco beat San Miguel Beer in the final game of the eliminations.
“We just needed to win…whatever happens in the second game,” Star coach Chito Victolero said. “I’m proud of my players especially in the second half. Maganda yung execution namin.”
PJ Simon flashed his vintage form as he gave the Hotshots an early lift, scoring a team-high 16 points in the first three quarters and adding four assists, and one rebound in 20 minutes as a starter.
But it was Paul Lee and Mark Barroca who conspired in the payoff period, where they combined for 13 points and hit the biggest baskets at crunch time to lift their team to victory.
Kristofer Acox scored eight of his 14 points in the third period where the Hotshots outscored the Road Warriors, 39-25, to turn a halftime deficit that went as many as 15 points into a six-point lead heading into the final frame.
Aaron Fuller led the Road Warriors with 16 points and 17 boards, while Larry Fonacier added 12 points that was enough for the veteran gunner to join the 5,000-point club in a losing effort.
Star 101 – Simon 16, Lee 15, Acox 14, Ramos 14, Barroca 13, Dela Rosa 8, Melton 6, Pingris 6, Sangalang 4, Jalalon 3, Brondial 2, Reavis 0.
Meralco 93 – Fuller 16, Mallari 13, Fonacier 12, Alas 9, Al-Hussaini 9, Quinahan 9, Lastimosa 8, Taulava 5, Tiongson 5, J. Villanueva 3, Soyud 3, Baguio 1, Rios 0.
Quarterscores: 17-25; 36-44; 72-69; 101-93