STAR finally figured out how to close out a grind-out battle, eking out a 97-95 victory over NLEX on Sunday to get back on the winning track in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
After fading in two of their three games where they built sizeable early leads, the Hotshots almost saw the same scenario, but held on as they benefited from the lucky breaks as well as the Road Warriors’ uncharacteristic poor decision making down the stretch.
“We got to get better at that (closing out games),” Hotshots coach Jason Webb said. “But we’ll take victories however they come.”
“It was good the guys made the stop that was necessary and the basket that was necessary,” he added as his team moved to an even 2-2 win-loss card, while handing the Road Warriors their first loss in three games.
PJ Simon registered a team-high 21 points, while James Yap added 19 markers, although he missed two crucial free throws that allowed the Road Warriors to stay within striking distance.
But NLEX failed to capitalize as Kevin Alas committed a turnover in a play where he could’ve called a timeout to map out a possible game-winning play.
It was an uncharacteristic play after another as the sweet-shooting Yap missed two charities with nine seconds left with the score at 96-95 in favor of Star, before Asi Taulava didn’t sue for time after grabbing the rebound. The same goes for Alas, who dribbled to half-court line instead, then fumbled the ball.
That cut short the Road Warriors' comeback from 19 points down in the third quarter.
Sean Anthony tallied 28 points, including the last two from the charity stripe that nudged the Road Warriors to within one at 96-95.
STAR 97 – Simon 21, Yap 19, Mallari 14, Melton 13, Pascual J. 11, Sangalang 10, Maliksi 4, Pingris 3, Taha 2, Barroca 0, Pascual R. 0, Torres 0
NLEX 95 – Anthony 28, Taulava 18, Alas 10, Enciso 9, Apinan 7, Lanete 6, Villanueva E. 6, Camson 4, Khobuntin 4, Villanueva J. 2, Cardona 1, Borboran 0. Reyes 0
Quarterscores: 24-20, 47-37, 78-63, 97-95