MANILA, Philippines - Star charged back from back-to-back setbacks with an imposing 89-80 romp over Barangay Ginebra last night as the Hotshots stopped the Gin Kings’ vaunted fightback behind their Fast and Furious duo to move a win away from the PBA Philippine Cup Finals at the MOA Arena in Pasay.
The Hotshots bucked early fouls on their star players and battled every inch of the way to seize the pivotal 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven semifinal showdown.
“In a short talk (Thursday), I got the guys’ commitment to really focus in this game. No distractions, and just play hard and play to win the game. We’re even prepared for a 53-minute game,” said Star coach Chito Victolero.
The Hotshots made it tough on the Kings all throughout as Star inched to within a win from a first finals since its grand slam run in the 2013-14 PBA season.
Victolero and the Hotshots take their first of two cracks at the titular playoff in Game Six tomorrow over at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
TNT KaTropa, meanwhile, tries to end San Miguel Beer’s two-year reign as Philippine Cup champion, going for the clincher in Game Six of their own semis faceoff tonight, also at the MOA Arena.
The Hotshots stopped Ginebra’s two-game fightback with heads-up performances of both their starters and reserves.
Marc Pingris picked up three early fouls while Allein Maliksi fired blanks early on but the Star backups picked up the slack as the Hotshots led 49-45 at the turn.
Center Rafi Reavis stood out as he upstaged Japeth Aguilar with a rare double-double game with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
From 17 points down, the Kings managed to come to within seven in the last two minutes on the energy and firepower provided by Jayjay Helterbrand and Mark Caguioa along with Paolo Taha, Chris Ellis and Dave Marcelo.
Helterbrand hit a trey from the side, Caguioa scored on a three-point play and Helterbrand buried another triple as Ginebra rode on a 9-1 attack to pull within seven with a little over two minutes left.
NOTES: It is Troy Rosario’s wedding day, thus, TNT will be without one of its big men in Game Six of their semis playoff with San Miguel. “It (the wedding) was planned a year ago. But I think the guys are ready to play without Troy. The guys’ confidence are soaring high,” said team manager Virgil Villavicencio.
STAR 89 – Reavis 17, Barroca 12, Lee 10, Maliksi 10, Simon 8, Brondial 8, Melton 7, Pingris 6, Sangalang 5, Jalalon 2, Ramos 2, Dela Rosa 2.
GINEBRA 80 – Aguilar 13, Mercado 9, Ellis 9, Caguioa 9, Helterbrand 6, Cruz 6, Taha 5, Thompson 5, Tenorio 5, Ferrer 4, Mariano 4, Marcelo 3, Devance 2.
Quarterscores: 21-22, 49-45, 71-55, 89-80