The Purefoods Star Hotshots’ topsy-turvy elimination round campaign came to a close on a high note, getting a much-needed boost from star enforcer Marc Pingris to keep the Barako Bull Energy Cola at bay and grab their sixth win, 99-83, Tuesday afternoon at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Pingris, the national team standout who was recently included in the PBA’s 40 Greatest Players list had 20 points for the Hotshots, exploding in the second half to keep the Star Hotshots ahead of the race.
Both teams opened the first quarter in top shooting form, leading to numerous deadlocks and lead changes for most of the period. A late explosion from Joe Devance, who had nine points in the quarter, gave Purefoods the means to lead by as many as six points, 25-19. The Star Hotshots held on to the lead at the end of the quarter, 27-23.
An early second quarter explosion from Mark Barroca pushed the Hotshots’ lead to balloon anew. The eight-point spark from the former Far Eastern University standout gave the Star Hotshots the lead, 40-27. JC Intal managed to quell the Purefoods run around the halfway point of the quarter, but hot shooting from Allein Maliksi pushed Purefoods to lead by as many as 15 later in the quarter. They closed out the quarter with a sizeable 52-38 lead, shooting a commanding 62.8% from the field, as compared to Barako Bull’s 41.5%.
The Star Hotshots continued to score attack after attack in the third quarter, leading by as many as 16 points in the period. Holding the torch for the Energy Cola was R.R. Garcia, who had 10 points in the quarter. Though Barako Bull was able to come within as close as 10 points late in the quarter, the Star Hotshots always had an answer for every Barako Bull run. A breakaway three to beat the buzzer from Carlo Lastimosa however injected some life into the Energy Cola’s campaign, trimming the lead to eight, 75-67 at the end of the period.
Barako Bull managed to stay within the eight-point range early in the fourth quarter, but the Hotshots pulled away once more, leading by as many as 14, 90-76, late in the quarter. Denok Miranda kicked some life into Barako Bull approaching the final two minutes, trimming the lead to 91-82. But Pingris and PJ Simon answered for the Hotshots, sinking a couple of big baskets to put Purefoods up by 13, 95-82, with little more than a minute left to play. A few more free-throws from the Hotshots nailed the coffin for Barako Bull.
Intal led Barako Bull with 20 points. Purefoods exits the elimination round with a 6-5 record shared with rivals Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, and as of this writing, await the results of the day’s remaining games to get a better picture of their elimination round seeding. Barako Bull meanwhile finishes at 4-7, having won four of its last six assignments.