Star one win away from playoffs after dropping Elite
Paul Lintag on Jan 25, 2017 06:43 PM
Allein Maliksi fired 26 points to push Star on the brink of a playoff return.
After a second-quarter haymaker didn't totally knock out Blackwater, the Star Hotshots just turned around and landed another one in the fourth to start another winning streak in the 2017 Philippine Cup.
Entering a wild chase for the no. 2 spot, the Hotshots scored a convincing 111-95 victory over the Elite Wednesday at the Cuneta Astrdome, joining four other teams with the same 5-4 mark as of posting time.
After a slow first quarter which saw them being down by six, the Hotshots dropped a 20-point hammer in the second period to take control of the crucial contest.
Blackwater ended up bouncing back come the second half, cutting the deficit to as little as three points but Star simply went to Allein Maliksi, who exploded for 12 points in the third quarter, to keep the Elite at bay.
Maliksi's scoring exploits turned out to be a nice set up for Paul Lee's own explosion as the pride of Tondo torched Blackwater for 13 points in the last 12 minutes, leading up to a pretty final tally.
Maliksi led Star with 26 points off the bench while Lee and Justin Melton finished with 15 apiece. Rookie Jio Jalalon added 14 for good measure.
"I'm very happy with the win. We were preparing very hard for this game especially on defense. We know Blackwater can explode. I challenged my players sa depensa. We need to be consistent sa defense namin," head coach Chito Victolero said.
"I told them na ito yung start ng playoffs namin. I know the boys are mentally tough, they know the situation, they know what to do," he added as the Hotshots still has a chance to nab a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Blackwater got 23 points from Art Dela Cruz but it wasn't enough for them to finish the Philippine Cup elimination round above .500.
With the loss, their second straight, the Elite wrapped up their 11-game schedule with a 5-6 record. Their playoff hopes now solely depend on how other teams finish their respective final games.
STAR 111 - Maliksi 26, Lee 15, Melton 15, Jalalon 14, Sangalang 10, Barroca 8, Ramos 7, Dela Rosa 6, Pingris 5, Reavis 4, Brondial 1.
BLACKWATER 95 - Dela Cruz 23, Pinto 13, Sumang 13, Buenafe 10, Aguilar 10, Sena 9, Belo 6, Miranda 5, Gamalinda 4, Cervantes 2, Ababou 0, Pascual 0.
Quarterscores: 23-29, 59-45, 78-70111-95
Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8