And finally the skid comes to a close.
The Star Hotshots put an end to a three-game losing skid and at the same time notched their first victory in the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the expense of the Blackwater Elite, 122-103, Wednesday afternoon at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Eight early points, six from two triples, from veteran sharpshooter James Yap pushed Star to the early double digit lead, 15-4, barely halfway through the quarter. Yap, who had 10 markers in the quarter, kept the baskets coming for the Hotshots amid a Blackwater resurgence led by rookie Art dela Cruz and import MJ Rhett. After having led by as many as thirteen earlier in the quarter, Star exited the period with the lead, 28-22.
Big baskets from their bench players paved the way for Star to complete a 9-3 run and extend the lead back to double digits, 39-25, three minutes into the second quarter. With everyone else suddenly struggling to find the easy shots, Blackwater went to Carlo Lastimosa, who had 8 points in the quarter, to keep their offensive alive. At the half, the Hotshots still led by double digits, 58-41. They sank 8-out-of-11 attempts from the 3-point arc and enjoyed 13 first half points from James Yap.
Baskets from bigmen Denzel Bowles and Marc Pingris put Star up by twenty early in the second half, 64-44. Though first half hero Yap spent most of the quarter taking some much needed and much deserved rest, Star found themselves still comfortably lounging in the driver’s seat thanks to import Bowles and guards PJ Simon and Mark Barroca. Blackwater on the one hand continued to rely on the scoring expertise of import Rhett and sharpshooting bigman Carlo Lastimosa. After another twelve minutes, the lead was still with the Hotshots, 92-75.
An eight point explosion from Rhett cut the lead to thirteen early in the quarter, but what could have the Elite’s road to salvation was erased in the ensuing Star maelstrom. A series of baskets from Allein Maliksi and Denzel Bowles, capped off with back-to-back dunks, pushed the lead to a second decade anew, 109-81, by the halfway mark of the quarter. The Hotshots never looked back, and continued to hold on to the wide lead while sinking basket after basket wherever they pleased. At the buzzer, the Hotshots walked away with the win.
Denzel Bowles was named Player of the Game after notching 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. Allein Maliksi had 23 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. James Yap chipped in 15, having scored 13 in the first half.
MJ Rhett had 30 points and 21 rebounds to lead Blackwater, while Carlo Lastimosa had 20 points and 5 rebounds.
The Hotshots put up magnificent shooting percentages in their first win of the conference. They finished the game having gone 56% from the field, after hitting 50 of 88 field goal attempts. They also dominated from the 3-point line, having sunk 12 of 20 attempts from the arc. Blackwater too shot impressively, sinking 41 of 82 field goal attempts, but struggled to match up with the Hotshots’ shooting from the arc, having made only 5 of their 12 attempts.
Star finally enters the winning column, sitting at 1-3 after dropping their first three games. Blackwater meanwhile slides to 2-2.
The Hotshots will next face the Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday, February 28 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. On the other hand, the Elite will have the San Miguel Beermen on Wednesday, March 2 at he Ynares Centre in Antipolo City.
Star (122) – Bowles 28, Maliksi 23, Yap 15, Simon 10, Barroca 10, Sangalang 8, Melton 8, Pingris 7, Pascual 7, Cruz 4, Torres 2.
Blackwater (103) – Rhett 30, Lastimosa 20, Erram 13, Cervantes 11, Dela Cruz 9, Gamalinda 5, Reyes 5, Agovida 4, Cortez 4, Bulawan 2.
Quarterscores: 28-22, 58-41, 92-75, 122-103.
Photo courtesy of PBA Images
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