STAR wrote the same script as it swept Phoenix, 91-71, on Monday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to advance to the semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup.
The Hotshots banked on another third-quarter breakaway to finish off the Fuel Masters in just two games in their best-of-three quarterfinal series.
Paul Lee again sparked the blowout, scattering eight of his team-high 17 points in the third canto where the Hotshots outscored the Fuel Masters, 23-14, to pull away and reach the Final Four round for the first time since the 2015 Governors’ Cup, their last conference under Tim Cone.
“Nung simula nung season, medyo in the process yung chemistry namin, but now nag-improve ang chemistry namin because we start it on defense,” Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said after his team held the Fuel Masters to just 33-percent shooting.
“I’m very thankful to the players na na-adapt nila yung system ko,” added Victolero, who replaced Jason Webb this season, but retained his predecessor as his lead assistant.
The Hotshots are now waiting for the survivor of the Alaska-Ginebra pairing that’s down to a sudden death on Tuesday night.
Marc Pingris continued to display an offensive resurgence, tallying 16 points and missing a double-double by just one rebound, while adding three assists, two steals, and committing just one turnover in 34 minutes.
Jio Jalalon and Ian Sangalang were the other double-digit scorers with 11 apiece for the Hotshots, who have now won six straight games – by an average margin of 27 points.
“Siguro natatapat lang (na tambakan ang laro),” Victolero insisted. “Everybody can score, but now, everybody has proven they can play defense.”
Mattew Wright sustained his solid offensive play with a game-high 24 points, but the top rookie found little help outside Simon Enciso and JC Intal.
STAR 91 – Lee 17, Pingris 16, Jalalon 11, Sangalang 11, Maliksi 8, Barroca 7, Abundo 6, Ramos 6, Melton 5, Brondial 4, Reavis 0, Javier 0, Dela Rosa 0
PHOENIX 71 – Wright 24, Enciso 12, Intal 10, W. Wilson 6, Borboran 5, Baguio 4, J. Wilson 3, Torres 3, Kramer 2, Alolino 2, Dehesa 0, Miranda 0
Quarterscores: 22-18, 42-35, 65-49, 91-71