by Jonas Terrado
Star denied NLEX’s bid to secure the twice-to-beat advantage while keeping its slim ambition for the said incentive alive after rallying from a 15-point second quarter deficit to prevail 101-93 as the elimination round of the PBA Governors’ Cup drew to a close last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots rode on a strong second half powered by Mark Barroca and Icelandic import Kristofer Acox along with a momentum-changing buzzer-beater by Jio Jalalon in the third quarter to remain in the hunt for the elusive bonus at press time.
Meralco and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel also clinched the twice-to-beat with the result, but Star will have to play the role of cheerleader for the Bolts, who are playing the San Miguel Beermen last night.
A win by Meralco would give Star the twice-to-beat and a meeting with the same NLEX squad in the quarters. Otherwise, the Hotshots dropped to fifth and a date with fourth seed Ginebra in a Manila Clasico showdown.
Star, NLEX and Rain or Shine finished the elims at identical 7-4 slates. San Miguel, entering last night with a 7-3 card, could create a four-way tie if it falls to Meralco.
Regardless of where Star ends up, coach Chito Victolero expressed hope that the win would give them the needed motivation heading into the playoffs.
“We just need to wait kung anung place namin at kung sinu kalaban. But I’m very happy kasi going to the playoffs, magandang momentum para sa amin itong panalo na ito,” said Victolero.
Barroca scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half and Acox overcame an early slump for 14 points and 10 rebounds for Star, which shot 62 percent in the last two quarters to complete its comeback.
NLEX will be either fifth or sixth in the playoffs depending on the Meralco-SMB result. Nonetheless, the Road Warriors have themselves to blame for waiting a golden chance at making the top four.
Import Aaron Fuller had 16 points and 17 rebounds for the Road Warriors in a losing effort.
STAR 101 – Simon 16, Lee 15, Acox 14, Ramos 14, Barroca 13, Dela Rosa 8, Melton 6, Pingris 6, Sangalang 4, Jalalon 3, Brondial 2, Reavis 0.
NLEX 93 – Fuller 16, Mallari 13, Fonacier 12, Alas 9, Al-Hussaini 9, Quinahan 9, Lastimosa 8, Taulava 5, Tiongson 5, J. Villanueva 3, Soyud 3, Baguio 1, Rios 0.
Quarters: 17-25; 36-44; 72-69; 101-93.
MERALCO 104 – Durham 35, Dillinger 16, Newsome 14, Amer 13, Hodge 8, Tolomia 8, De Ocampo 6, Nabong 2, Hugnatan 2, Lanete 0.
SAN MIGUEL 101 – Fajardo 26, Lassiter 18, Watson 18, Cabagnot 16, Ross 10, Santos 6, Rosser 4, Espinas 3, Heruela 0.
Quarters: 19-32, 39-51, 69-81, 104-101.