Hotshots barge into semifinals after eliminating NLEX
Paul Lee was the top scorer for the locals
Paul Lee scored 18 points for Star (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
For Yeng Guiao, coaching a team that has been tagged as a considerable underdog against a powerhouse team such as the Star Hotshots is no longer new to him as he already attained years’ worth of experience of coaching underdogs and still, winning. That’s how dangerous the NLEX Road Warriors are despite the absence of a consistent player who can produce big numbers every time. For the Hotshots of Chito Victolero, having the twice-to-beat advantage against the multi-titled Yeng Guiao is a false advantage because he knew as well as the rest of the Star team that NLEX has made significant improvements since Guiao took over at the helm.
Down 2 entering the fourth quarter, the Star Hotshots jumped out firing and took the lead away from the NLEX Road Warriors as they held a double-digit lead during the dying minutes of the game as the Hotshots prevailed, 89-77 to enter the semifinals where they will face the winner of the do-or-die game between the Meralco Bolts and the Blackwater Elite
The game began with both teams starting to find their respective rhythm as NLEX led at 23-22 after the first quarter with Kevin Alas led the scoring chores for the Road Warriors with 8 points. The run-and-gun battle carried over during the opening minutes of quarter number two as Paul Lee, Rafi Reavis, Ian Sangalang and Jio Jalalon all scored on different occasions to put Star up by 7 points, at 34-27 with 8:46 to go in the 2nd quarter. However, Star’s tendency to commit nonsense turnovers hindered their capability to ignite a significant scoring run throughout the first half as the Road Warriors were able to climb right back with timely three-pointers.
Juami Tiongson later scored on a lay-up to tie the score at 37 apiece with under 6 minutes to play and then import Aaron Fuller scored on an offensive rebound to give the lead back to NLEX at 39-37 as Chito Victolero signaled that he wanted a timeout with 4:36 to play in the quarter.
Then, the Hotshots went on a 7-0 scoring run that began on Aldrich Ramos’ 3-pointer that was followed by a dunk by Kris Acox and a running shot by PJ Simon to put Star up by, at 45-43 only to watch JR Quinahan tied it up again with 12 seconds remaining in the first half.
Both imports have failed to make their respective presence felt during the first half as Fuller and Acox scored 10 and 9 respectively. Despite having committed 14 turnovers in the first half alone, the Hotshots stayed close by making half of their 34 shot attempts in the first 24 minutes of the game. Another reason why Star remained in the game was their fastbreak points wich the Hotshots dominated at 8-2 in the first half For their part, the Road Warriors were able to stick around by scoring more off their missed points.
Both imports then started off the scoring for their respective teams to start the second half as Larry Fornacier drilled a trey to put NLEX by 3, 2 minutes into the 3rd quarter. NLEX later increased their lead to 7 on Fuller’s putback. Alex Mallari drained a 3-pointer a few possessions later to put the Road Warriors up by 8 points, at 63-55. However, NLEX’s inconsistency to sustain a scoring run doomed them as Hotshots went on a scoring run on their own to cut the lead down to 63-61 heading into the final quarter.
Star went on an 8-0 run to open the fourth quarter to snatch the lead 69-63 on Kris Acox’s acrobatic lay-up. Star later increased their lead to 8 and NLEX cut it down to 6 on multiple times only for Acox to score on another lay-up off a pass from Marc Pingris to put the Hotshots up by 8 with 7:07 remaining in the game, forcing Yeng Guiao to call a much-needed timeout. Aaron Fuller’s shot with under 6 minutes to go put down the lead at 75-71 only for Paul Lee to make 1 of 2 charities and Marc Pingris to score on a lucky bounce to increase the lead anew to 8 and Paul Lee added another lay-up to give Star its first double-digit lead of the game with under 4 minutes to spare. Paul Lee made another pair of free throws to sustain a 10-point lead for his team with 2:50 play, forcing NLEX to call another timeout.
That appeared to be the turning point as NLEX was plagued with turnovers and fouls as Paul Lee added another jumper to increase the lead to 14 under 2 minutes to go in the game.
Star Hotshots were led by import, Kris Acox who had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Paul Lee finally broke out of his scoring slump, adding 18 points while Ian Sangalang added 14 points. The Star as a team made 52% of their shot attempts as compared to the Road Warriors who only made 39% of their attempts during the entire game.
For the eliminated Road Warriors, Aaron Fuller finished his Governors’ Cup campaign with 16 points to lead his team while former Star player Alex Mallari added 15 points while Kevin Alas finished with 14 on 5 out of 9 shooting.
Star – 89
Acox 21, Lee 18, Sangalang 14, Pingris 8, Jalalon 7, Simon 7, Brondial 5, Raamos 3, Barroca 2, Reavis 2, dela Rosa 2, Melton 0, Mendoza 0, Gamalinda 0, Abundo 0, Pascual 0
NLEX – 77
Fuller 16, Mallari 15, Alas 14, Fornacier 9, Quinahan 6, Tiongson 5, Baguio 5, Rios 4, Al-Hussaini 3, Taulava 0, Monfort 0, Lastimosa 0, Villanueva 0, Soyud 0, Ighalo 0, Gotladera 0
22-23, 45-45, 61-63, 89-77