The Governor’s Cup defending champions Purefoods Star Hotshots gets their first victory as they squeak past NLEX Road Warriors, 89-85 to open up their title defense held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Kwame Alexander made a fiery start to the ballgame with his first triple jump put up a 10-4 lead in favor of the Road Warriors. The Star Hotshots had a rough time getting successive baskets to fall as the defense of NLEX troubled them in the early minutes of the game. However, Marquis Blakely began to make noise in the paint to answer Alexander’s presence down low. Blakely anchored a 13-3 finish in the first for Purefoods, scoring seven points during the stretch while also playing superb defense on the other end.
With the majority of the team’s second unit fielded in to start the second period, Allain Maliksi and Alex Mallari provided the spark off the bench to give their squad a bigger lead. The two bench players, together with a ferocious Blakely jam gave Purefoods a 26-19 lift with less than nine minutes to go in the first half. Michael Mandanly started to score for NLEX from the perimeter to chip into the deficit but was quickly responded by an 8-3 answer by Purefoods to make it a double-digit game.
Stellar defense on both ends of the floor neither gave themselves any opportunity to find their offensive groove. Blakely stood to be a stellar rim protector while the Road Warriors’ guards played the passing lanes. While Blakely dominated the paint, his squad maintained the lead until the final two minutes the second period. Mark Cardona made two floaters to trigger NLEX’s run late in the first half as it was a part of a 10-2 run to tie the game at 41 heading into the half.
Jonas Villanueva made two layups in the third quarter to give back NLEX the advantage. The game became a closely-contested affair but Niño Canaleta drained in a triple to make it a 50-45 game in favor of his squad. The five-point lead was the largest for both teams in the third period as the defensive-themed game ensued by the squads. Mark Barroca drained in a basket to complete an 8-1 run and give back the lead to Purefoods but they would trail by two at the end of three quarters.
In the fourth, James Yap’s jumper triggered Purefoods’ run to pull themselves up again. While the starters make their way back to the game, Pingris converted on a hook to give them a 72-64 advantage. While NLEX made huge stops to stop the lead from getting bigger, they also made their free throws to make it a four point lead with less than two minutes to play. After an exchange of successive misses from the floor, Joe Devance knocked down the dagger triple to make it a seven point game at 78-71. Mallari, Barroca, and Barroca would knock down all the needed free throws down the stretch to seal the deal for Purefoods’ first win.
NLEX shot 12 out of 31 from three-point territory for a 39% clip compared to Purefoods’ 3 out of 14 shooting(21%). Purefoods, however, scored more from the paint, 46-32 and had more blocks 8-4.
Blakely finished with 29 points, 18 rebounds, seven steals and five rejections. Mallari added 15 on an efficient shooting on only seven attempts. Alexander tallied 25 markers and was a monster on the boards with 26.
Purefoods(89) – Blakely 29, Mallari 15, Barroca 9, Pingris 8, Yap 7, Devance 7, Malliksi 7, Simon 4, Reavis 3, Pennisi 0
NLEX(85) – Alexander 25, Villanueva 14, Cardona 9, Borboran 8, Madanly 8, Canaleta 6, Taulava 6, Villanueva 4, Ramos 2, Raymundo 2, Apinan 0
Quarters: 17-13, 41-41, 56-56, 89-86