STAR’s belief came to fruition as it outlasted San Miguel Beer, 109-105, to gain a head start in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series on Saturday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots opened a 15-point fourth-quarter lead that almost disappeared as fast as they built it, seeing the Beermen make an expected comeback before showing composure down the stretch to pull off the Game One victory.
Aldrech Ramos knocked down the dagger triple off Paul Lee feed that gave them a two-possession lead after Ricardo Ratliffe and Allein Maliksi carried the offensive load in giving the double-digit cushion that withstood an SMB fightback.
“It was all about our heart, desire, and our will to win,” Star coach Chito Victolero said. “We know San Miguel, they have the experience and they’re a champion team. But my players kept on fighting, kept on grinding.”
Game Two of the best-of-five series is on Monday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Maliksi fired 26 points, spiked by five triples as the Star sniper found the range along with Mark Barroca and Justin Melton in their run that allowed them to bank on that early fourth-quarter surge.
Ratliffe anchored the middle as usual as he registered 26 points, 21 rebounds, three assists, three steals, and one block against 10 turnovers as the Star import converted the three-point play that gave the Hotshots their biggest lead of the game at 94-79 with a little less than seven minutes left.
But that’s when the Beermen regained their bearings as they banked on a run behind Marcio Lassiter, who hit the right-wing triple off a Chris Ross handoff that nudged them to within a point, 104-105 with 33.5 seconds left.
Ramos, though, retailed with the last of his three triples, hitting from the top-of-the-key in a play off a timeout with 15 ticks to go.
The Hotshots buried 12 of their 27 three-point attempts overall for a solid 44-percent shooting from beyond the arc, compared to the Beermen’s 29% (7 of 24).
Charles Rhodes led the Beermen with 34 points, 10 boards, three assists, and three steals in 43 minutes, while June Mar Fajardo added 24 points and nine boards after coming in averaging just 13.1 points and 7.1 boards.
Lassiter finished with 12 points – all from three-point territory – that went for naught.
STAR 109 – Ratliffe 26, Maliksi 26, Sangalang 12, Ramos 11, Barroca 8, Melton 8, Reavis 7, Lee 4, Simon 4, Jalalon 3
SMB 105 – Rhodes 34, Fajardo 24, Santos 16, Lassiter 12, Cabagnot 8, Ross 7, Espinas 2, Tubid 2
Quarterscores: 23-22, 45-46, 75-72, 109-105