STAR continued to show a sense of urgency deep in the eliminations as it frustrated Blackwater, 111-95, to move on the cusp of a securing a quarterfinal berth in the PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The Hotshots saw the Elite make a rally from a sizeable double-digit deficit in the third quarter, but regained their bearings in the payoff period to cruise to their second straight win and fifth in nine games overall.
Allein Maliksi provided a huge spark off the bench, firing 26 points built around five triples, and five boards in just 23 minutes, before Paul Lee led the late push as he finished with 15 markers, four rebounds, and four assists.
The result left the Elite’s playoff bid suddenly in danger after they suffered a second straight setback to finish the regular season below .500 with a 5-6 win-loss record, their fate not in their hands anymore.
The result also formalized idle Phoenix’s entry to the first round of the playoffs.
“Itong game na ito yung start ng playoffs para sa amin,” Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said. “Our boys are veterans, mentally tough, and they know what to do already.”
“We worked very hard on this game especially on defense,” he added.
The Hotshots shrugged off a slow start, establishing a 14-point halftime lead, before it was the Elite’s turn to make a comeback in third quarter.
Scoreless in the first quarter, Maliksi heated up in the last three as he kept the Hotshots on top, before Lee took over in the fourth where he scored all but two of his output to put the Elite away.
Art dela Cruz justified with Gilas call-up, leading the Elite with 23 points and six boards, but Mac Belo was held to just six points on seven attempts in 31 minutes.
STAR 111 – Maliksi 26, Lee 15, Melton 15, Jalalon 14, Sangalang 10, Barroca 8, Ramos 7, Dela Rosa 6, Pingris 5, Reavis 4, Brondial 1
BLACKWATER 95 – Dela Cruz 23, Pinto 13, Sumang 13, Buenafe 10, Aguilar 10, Sena 9, Belo 6, Miranda 5, Gamalinda 4, Cervantes 2, Ababou 0, Pascual 0
Quarterscores: 23-29, 59-45, 78-70111-95