Paul Lee delivered in crunch time to lead the Star Hotshots to a 78-74 Game 1 win over the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings on Thursday in the best-of-seven semifinals of Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
The former University of the East guard scored five crucial points in the last two-minute mark to finish with 19 points and five rebounds.
“It’s all about our team effort – team defense,” said Star Hotshots coach Chito Victolero during the postgame interview. “I told them that it’s very close in the end and we need that mental toughness in order for us to win this game.”
Point guard Mark Andy Barroca tallied 17 points while power forward Jean Marc Pingris had nine points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks. Ian Sanggalang contributed eight points also for the Hotshots.
“Our emotions, our composure we need it. We need to play with a proper mindset. Paul Lee and Marc Pingris, they have a big heart, even the whole team. We have luck and hard work. It’s a grinding series and I told them that we have to stay together.”
Ginebra surprised Star Hotshots in the opening quarter by posting a 19-14 lead behind Earl Scottie Thompson’s five points. But Thompson finished with mere seven points and 10 rebounds unable to score in the second half.
The Gin Kings established a slim 38-37 lead at halftime until the Star Hotshots found its rhythm in the third canto snatching the lead, 60-58, at the start of last period. Lee took charge scoring nine points in the final canto en route to the Hotshots’ victory.
The Hotshots with its seventh straight victory, now hold the second longest winning streak in the conference behind the reigning champion San Miguel Beermen’s 11.
The Beermen are also leading 1-0 against the Talk ‘N Text KaTropa in the other semifinals series.
Chris Ellis led Ginebra with 12 points.
STAR 78 – Lee 18, Barroca 17, Pingris 9, Sangalang 8, Maliksi 7, Jalalon 6, Reavis 5, Melton 5, Dela Rosa 2, Ramos 1, Brondial 0.
GINEBRA 74 – Aguilar 11, Ellis 12, Cruz 10, Mercado 10, Tenorio 8, Thompson 7, Ferrer 7, Marcelo 5, Mariano 4.
Quarter Scores: 14-19, 37-38, 60-58, 78-74.