The Star Hotshots turned unstoppable all-throughout the game to score a lopsided 120-73 win over the Meralco Bolts on Saturday and secure their quarterfinals slot in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Swingman Allein Maliksi led the Hotshots with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field including five treys, five rebounds and two steals, while veteran Paul Lee and rookie Jio Jalalon dazzled with 15 points apiece to up their win-loss record to 6-4.
Another victory of the Hotshots in their last game will possibly earn them the twice-to-beat edge or the No. 2 spot in the quarterfinal round.
“I challenged my players that we need to be mentally tough in this game,” said Hotshots coach Chito Victolero during the post game press conference. “I was scared about Meralco because they beat Rain or Shine and they did not feel any pressure.”
“I know my players are veterans and I’m very confident that they will step up. We prepared hard for this game. I’m happy all of them took charge,” he added.
Power forward Aldrech Ramos posted 13 points and five rebounds, while playmaker Justin Melton, Mark Andy Barroca and Ian Sanggalang had 10 points each also for the Hotshots.
The Hotshots tallied more threes (17-6), rebounds (47-40) and assists (22-14) than the Bolts. They also shot accurately from the field than Meralco (56%-40%).
The Hotshots also committed less turnovers than the Bolts (12-21) and transformed those errors of Meralco to 20 points. The Bolts had only six points from Meralco’s 12 errors.
Star’s Maliksi, Lee and Jalalon joined forces in the opening period to race to a 28-15 cushion with only a minute left before the start of second period. Meralco’s big men Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Justin Chua were able to narrow the gap to 19-28 at the end of first period by hitting a basket each.
But the Hotshots unloaded a devastating 35-12 bomb in the second quarter highlighted by Maliksi’s 11 points including three straight triples that helped them establish an insurmountable 63-31 advantage after the first two quarters.
Even in the start of second half, the Hotshots stayed invincible widening more the gap to as many as 30 points with Mark Andy Barroca scoring a couple of baskets to build up a 90-43 lead at the start of final canto. They were never threatened the rest of the way.
In the final canto, the Star Hotshots managed to field their third and second stringers as the game was already out of reach by the already-eliminated Bolts, who absorbed their worst defeat this conference and fell to 3-8 win-loss record.
It was the all-time worst loss by Meralco franchise since losing to Rain or Shine via 95-139 last October 30, 2011 during a Philippine Cup campaign.
Chris Newsome led the Bolts with 13 points – the only player who scored in double-digit for his team. Meanwhile, Rain or Shine, GlobalPort and Barangay Ginebra will be playing a crucial game at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City today. The Elasto Painters (5-4) will collide against the Batang Pier (5-5) in first game at 4:30 p.m.
The Gin Kings (5-5) will tangle against the already-eliminated Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Road Warriors in the second game at 6:45 p.m. A sixth victory by these three teams will earn them at least a playoff berth for a slot in the quarterfinal round.
In the second game, June Mar Fajardo sizzled with 20 points, 22 rebounds and three blocks as reigning champion San Miguel Beer survived Talk ‘N Text Ka Tropa, 98-94, to end the elimination round on a high note.
Playmaker Alex Cabagnot, who notched 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, nailed the go-ahead trey with only 26 ticks left shattering a 94-all deadlock and veteran Arwind Santos made one of his two free throws in the dying seconds to peg the final count.
Santos finished with 18 points while Marcio Lassiter also had 18 points for the Beermen.
The Beermen’s win-loss record upped to 10-1. Their loss came only against the Phoenix Petroleum Fuel Masters. Talk ‘N Text dropped to 6-5 win-loss record.
STAR 120 – Maliksi 25, Lee 15, Jalalon 15, Ramos 13, Melton 10, Barroca 10, Sangalang 10, Abundo 8, Reavis 4, De Leon 3, Abundo 3, Dela Rosa 2, Brondial 2, Pingris 0.
MERALCO 73 – Newsome 13, Al Hussaini 9, Hugnatan 7, Amer 7, Uyloan 6, Caram 6, Grey 5, Chua 4, Faundo 4, Dillinger 4, Daquioag 3, Hodge 3, Yeo 2, Nabong 0.
Quarterscores: 28-19, 63-31, 90-43, 120-73