Hotshots gun for crucial win vs Aces

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Star tries to stay in the race for the twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals stage as it closes its elimination round campaign against Alaska in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup today at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

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The Hotshots, currently tied with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel for No. 1 spot with identical 8-2 win-loss slates, need to win their 7 p.m. encounter and hope that the Gin Kings and San Miguel Beer (7-2) will lose one more game to clinch the bonus.

Ricardo Ratliffe of the Hotshots FILE PHOTO

In case of a three-way tie at 9-2, Star will fall to third spot and will figure in a best-of-three quarterfinals series against the No. 6 team, as Ginebra and the Beermen inflicted its two losses.

San Miguel begins its own search for the bonus as it battles the also ran Blackwater in the opener at 4:30 p.m.

The Hotshots are on a roll, winning their last four games, thanks to Ricardo Ratliffe’s solid game. The Star import is averaging 34.5 points, 17.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.

Hotshots head coach Chito Victolero cautions his players not to take the Aces lightly as the team of mentor Alex Compton is fighting for survival and needs the game badly to secure a spot in the next round.

“Proper mindset and focus is very important in this game. We expect a grinding game versus Alaska because both teams need to win for a good positioning in the quarterfinals,” said Victolero, whose team is coming off a 108-90 win over Meralco.

“Going into the playoffs, we want to be more consistent on doing the right things. This game will help us a lot in our preparation for the next level,” he added.

The Aces have been struggling after starting the tournament with four straight wins. They have now lost their last six matches that put their quarterfinals hopes in the balance.

Two slots are left for the next stage and Alaska (4-6), GlobalPort (4-6), Phoenix (4-7) and Mahindra (3-7) are fighting for those remaining berths.

Calvin Abueva could return to the Aces lineup after missing the team’s previous match against San Miguel due to ankle sprain.

Meanwhile, the Beermen try to move closer for the top two finish with a win against the 2-8 Elite of head coach Leo Isaac.

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