STAR again took Rain or Shine out of its element as the Hotshots frustrated the Elasto Painters, 84-69, on Wednesday night to advance to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals.
The Hotshots tightened their defensive screws on the fast-breaking Elasto Painters then turned to a late surge to complete a sweep of the defending champions in their best-of-three quarterfinal series.
Ricardo Ratliffe anchored the Hotshots with 26 points and 24 boards, while Mark Barroca sparked the fourth-quarter breakaway that made up for the Hotshots' slow start.
“We expected the grinding game,” Star coach Chito Victolero said. “It’s a different story in Game Two. They had better preparation. Credit also to coach Caloy (Garcia) and his coaching staff.”
“But my players never gave up,” he added. “They kept on grinding, and yung mental toughness namin nandun.”
Now, the Hotshots face sister squad San Miguel Beer in a highly anticipated best-of-five semifinal showdown that should be a dandy.
Early on, though, it looked like the E-Painters would force a deciding game after surrendering a 118-82 decision in series opener as they built an early eight-point lead.
The E-Painters made just 42 percent (27-of-64) of their shots, but it was still actually better than that of the Hotshots, who prevailed a paltry 35-percent (30-of-86) shooting from the field.
“Napakasama ng shooting percentage namin. Sabi ko lang sa kanila na papasok din yan,” Victolero said.
True enough, the Hotshots found their groove in the endgame as Barroca scored all but two of his 12 points in the payoff period, while Paul Lee also proved to be a thorn in the side of his former team, tallying 13 points, two boards, and one assist in 33 minutes.
PJ Simon even chipped in six of his nine points in the final frame as he punished the lackluster defense of former teammate James Yap.
On offense, Yap contributed just three points on 1-of-5 shooting against for the E-Painters as the two-time MVP fell 19 points short of becoming the 14th member of the 10,000-point club, postponing him of reaching the milestone until next conference.
Duke Crews was the only ROS player to score in double figures with 12 points along with five boards in just 22 minutes.
STAR 84 – Ratliffe 26, Lee 13, Barroca 12, Simon 9, Sangalang 8, Jalalon 8, Reavis 4, Ramos 2, Maliksi 2, Melton 0
ROS 69 – Crews 12, Chan 9, Tiu 9, Belga 7, Washington 7, Norwood 6, Ahanmisi 6, Cruz 4, Ponferada 4, Yap 3, Almazan 2
Quarterscores: 16-19, 33-37, 55-52, 84-69