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Hotshots in; Elite force ‘rubber’

CHARGE: Henry Walker of Blackwater bangs into the body of Meralco’s Cliff Hodge and is slapped an offensive foul. JUN MENDOZA

Games today (MOA Arena)

4:15 p.m. – TNT KaTropa vs Rain or Shine

7 p.m. – Ginebra vs San Miguel

MANILA, Philippines — The Star Hotshots struck twice versus the NLEX Road Warriors in three nights, duplicating their come-from-behind 101-93 win Sunday with an 89-77 triumph to claim the first berth in the PBA Governors Cup Final Four at the MOA Arena last night.

The Hotshots attacked the Road Warriors heavily at the post as Kris Acox and his teammates rallied from eight points down late in the third en route to the best-of-five semifinals versus the winner of the Meralco-Blackwater quarterfinals showdown.

From a 55-63 count, Star uncorked a decisive 14-to-nothing run to wrest control and the Hotshots sustained the momentum to ease the Road Warriors out of contention in the season-ending tourney.

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Acox, Paul Lee and Ian Sangalang each scored at least 14 points as the Hotshots once again earned a shot at the finals this season.

“We made the semis in both the all-Filipino and in the Commissioner’s Cup, but failed to make the finals. Hopefully, we’ll do better this time,” said Star coach Chito Victolero.

“As a group, we’re united in our system and in our goal. Tonight, our goal was to limit NLEX below 80 points and we did just that by limiting their fastbreak and transition points,” Victolero also said.

Earlier, Henry Walker fired 18 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter while Roi Sumang and Allein Maliksi came through with huge plays at the finish as Blackwater stunned top seed Meralco, 92-91, to force a do-or-die showdown in their quarterfinals matchup.

Playing only his third game with the Ever Bilena franchise, Maliksi delivered the marginal basket as the Elite scored a first post-elims victory since joining the local pro league in 2014.

The Bolts, the elims topnotchers with a 9-2 win-loss slate, came out a bit sluggish in their second game in 48 hours and subsequently dropped their first crack at the best-of-five semifinals.

The two teams figure in a knockout battle tomorrow.

The Bolts could have salvaged the game but Chris Tolomia missed a top-of-the-key shot as time expired.

Meanwhile, sister teams Barangay Ginebra and San Miguel Beer open their quarters matchup at 7 tonight with the Gin Kings gaining a twice-to-beat edge.

TNT KaTropa likewise guns for a semis berth against Rain Or Shine at 4:15 p.m.

The scores:

First Game

Blackwater 92 – Walker 30, Digregorio 20, Maliksi 15, Sumang 9, Erram 7, Sena 4, Marcelo 4, Canaleta 3, Belo 0, Pinto 0, Cruz 0.

Meralco 91 – Newsome 19, Durham 18, Hodge 18, Dillinger 12, Tolomia 11, Amer 8, Hugnatan 5, Lanete 0, Caram 0, De Ocampo 0.

Quarterscores: 24-17, 42-40, 63-62, 92-91

Second Game

STAR 89 – Acox 21, Lee 18, Sangalang 14, Pingris 8, Jalalon 7, Simon 7, Brondial 5, Ramos 3, Reavis 2, Barroca 2, Dela Rosa 2, Melton 0.

NLEX 77 – Fuller 16, Mallari 15, Alas 14, Fonacier 9, Quinahan 6, Tiongson 5, Baguio 5, Rios 4, Al-Hussaini 3, Taulava 0, Soyud 0.

Quarterscores: 23-22, 45-45, 61-63, 89-77.

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