STAR outlasted Meralco, 104-103, behind the late heroics of Joel Wright on Sunday night at the Mall of Asia Arena to keep its flat-lining playoff hopes alive in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The Hotshots squandered a late 14-point lead but held on thanks to Wright, who scored the game-winning floater from the baseline with seven-tenths of a second left that snapped a five-game skid and kept Star mathematically in contention in the playoff race even with a 2-7 win-loss record.
Wright’s shot ended a trade of baskets with Meralco and negated Reynel Hugnatan’s putback off an Allen Durham miss as the Bolts dropped to an even 5-5 win-loss record.
Wright finished with 27 points and 14 boards as he finally produced a victory in five games since replacing Marqus Blakely, while PJ Simon and Marc Pingris stepped up in the absence of injured James Yap.
“Whatever chances we have, I think the most important thing is guys continue to believe in each other,” Hotshots coach Jason Webb said. “All credit goes to the vets that were out there today. It was a total team effort.”
The Hotshots looked poised for a one-sided win as they established an 87-73 lead with a little over nine minutes remaining in the game, when the Bolts embarked on a fightback behind Jimmy Alapag that saw them erase the deficit and even take a four-point lead at the two-minute mark.
But the Hotshots simply refused to lose with their backs against the wall as they stood toe to toe with the Bolts down the stretch before Wright sealed the result.
Durham fired a game-high-tying 27 points, while Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge added 20 and 18 respectively for the Bolts, who drew 14 and 11 markers, respectively from Alapag and Hugnatan that all went for naught.
STAR 104 – Wright 27, Simon 16, Maliksi 15, Pingris 15, Barroca 13, Mallari 7, Garcia 6, Brondial 2, Melton 2, Gaco 1, Pascual 0, Reavis 0
MERALCO 103 – Durham 27, Newsome 20, Hodge 18, Alapag 14, Hugnatan 11, Nabong 7, Amer 3, Faundo 2, Dillinger 1, Buenafe 0, Caram 0
Quarterscores: 31-23, 50-52, 83-70, 104-103