STAR overcame tremendous odds as it stunned San Miguel Beer, 108-99, to force a sudden death in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal matchup on Monday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The eighth-seeded Hotshots overhauled an early double-digit deficit with a rejuvenated and gutsy performance in the second half to topple the top-seeded Beermen.
Ricardo Ratliffe proved the be the anchor anew as he registered 33 points and missed a herculean 30-30 effort by just one rebound, while Allein Maliksi and PJ Simon also came up huge with 23 and 22 points, respectively, for the undermanned Hotshots.
“I’m just thankful for their God-given talent and heart,” Hotshots coach Jason Webb said. “These guys fought back. They never give up and never give in.”
The Hotshots thus moved a win away from becoming the first eighth-seeded team to eliminate a top-seeded opponent in the playoffs since Powerade did it against Star (then known as B-Meg) in the 2012 Philippine Cup.
Star can complete the impressive feat with a win on Wednesday night, also at the Big Dome.
The Hotshots trailed by as many as 13 points in the second quarter, but came back and engaged the Beermen into a nip-and-tuck affair early in the final frame.
The game was still tied at 89 with a little over four minutes left when the Hotshots banked on a 14-2 salvo, capped by four straight points by Ratliffe, that took the fight out of the Beermen.
In all, the Hotshots outscored the Beermen in the last two quarters, 66-46.
The result spoiled the vintage play of fit-again June Mar Fajardo, who registered 24 points and 13 boards.
Tyler Wilkerson, the Best Import race frontrunner, was, however, held to just 22 points in 45 minutes, his second-lowest output this conference after coming in averaging 36.9 points.
Star 108 – Ratliffe 33, Maliksi 23, Simon 22, Barroca 10, Melton 8, Pingris 5, Reavis 5, Sangalang 2, Cruz 0
SMB 99 – Fajardo 24, Wilkerson 22, Santos 16, Lassiter 11, David 8, Ross 8, Tubid 6, Cabagnot 2, Espinas 2, Arana 0, De Ocampo 0, Reyes 0
Quarterscores: 20-26, 42-53, 74-75, 108-99