IN a parade of new imports, Phoenix’s reinforcement shone slightly brighter, yet Star still had the last laugh as it reasserted its mastery of the Fuel Masters with a 101-82 decision on Wednesday for a rousing start to its PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign.
The Hotshots, who beat the Fuel Masters by an average of 31.7 points in the Philippine Cup, turned to a balanced effort led by Tony Mitchell, who tallied 24 points, 16 boards, three assists, three blocks, and one steal in 37 minutes in his debut.
The Fuel Masters’ own new import, Jamell Mackay, turned up better numbers with 34 points, 20 rebounds, four blocks, two steals, and two assists, but he fouled out after almost 43 minutes of play.
“The reminder was to stay focused and be aggressive, because we know Phoenix is very motivated after what happened last conference,” Star coach Chito Victolero said.
“Our import was aggressive on both ends and the locals stepped up,” he added.
Mark Barroca flashed his vintage form while Allein Maliksi justified his Gilas pool spot as the duo led the local crew of the Hotshots, who dealt the Fuel Masters another blowout defeat in their matchup.
Phoenix also dropped its first assignment this conference after starting the midseason tournament with a victory behind high-scoring stand-in import Eugene Phelps.
Phelps’ replacement, McKay, proved up to the task, delivering on both ends early as the Fuel Masters took an early 13-4 lead in the first quarter.
The Hotshots, however, quickly turned the game around and never looked back, capping their game-long dominance with a strong finishing kick that saw them outscore the Fuel Masters, 26-15, in the payoff period.
Barroca fired 17 points in 23 minutes off the bench, while the efficient Maliksi added instant offense with 16 points in 16 minutes. PJ Simon and Ian Sangalang were the two other Hotshots in double-figure scoring with 10 apiece.
STAR 101 – Mitchell 24, Barroca 17, Maliksi 16, Simon 10, Sangalang 10, Ramos 9, Melton 7, Jalalon 4, Lee 2, Reavis 0, Brondial 0
PHOENIX 82 – McKay 34, Intal 13, J. Wilson 10, Borboran 7, Jazul 6, Baguio 4, Dehesa 4, Lanete 2, W. Wilson 2, Kramer 0, Alolino 0, Torres 0
Quarterscores: 30-22, 46-43, 75-67, 101-82