The Star leaned on Aldrech Ramos’ huge triple in the closing seconds to escape with a thrilling 109-105 win over San Miguel Beer to take Game 1 of their best-of-five semifinals on Saturday in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 42 Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 6’7 forward hit the crucial three-pointer at the top of the key to give the Hotshots the breathing room, 108-104, as the Beermen battled back from a double-digit deficit in the final three minutes that fell short.
“I told Aldrech (Ramos) during the break to keep shooting the ball with confidence,” said Star head coach Chito Victolero. “That’s his role. I credited also all my players for stepping up and for being aggressive throughout this game.”
Ramos finished with 11 points, spiked by three three-pointers with the last one posted at the right time for the Star.
The Hotshots were comfortably ahead at 104-90 with 3:17 remaining when Marcio Lassiter led a furious 14-1 exchange to narrow the gap at 104-105 with 41 seconds left.
Victolero asked for a timeout and designed a play that led to a triple by Ramos to preserve the victory with 12.8 seconds remaining.
“We know this is a grinding game and this is all about our heart, and our will,” added Victolero. “San Miguel has the championship experience. They were down by nine in the last three minutes and they almost came back, but I’m thankful the players responded well to the challenge.”
Ricardo Ratliffe led the Star with 26 points and 21 rebounds but he committed 10 turnovers. Allein Maliksi added 26 points and Ian Sangalang contributed 12 for the Hotshots.
Charles Rhodes led San Miguel with 34 points and 10 boards while three-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo chipped in 24 points and nine rebounds for the Beermen.
Meanwhile, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and TNT KaTropa begin their best-of-five semifinals series today at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Game 1 is set at 6:30 p.m. with the well-rested Gin Kings face the Katropa, who endured Meralco in their best-of-three quarterfinals series that went to full route.
“We’re going to have to find ways to battle their in-and-out game with their massive import,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone, referring to TNT import Joshua Smith.
“They, of course, will have to find ways to stop our quickness. Like I said, very interesting indeed,” Cone added.
The KaTropa are coming off a 104-96 overtime win over the Bolts in Game 3 to secure the last semifinals seat.
STAR 109 – Ratliffe 26, Maliksi 26, Sangalang 12, Ramos 11, Barroca 8, Melton 8, Reavis 7, Lee 4, Simon 4, Jalalon 3.
SAN MIGUEL 105 – Rhodes 34, Fajardo 24, Santos 16, Lassiter 12, Cabagnot 8, Ross 7, Espinas 2, Tubid 2.
Quarter scores: 23-22, 45-46, 75-72, 109-105.