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Simon drops 26 to propel Star past Blackwater



In a critical game to determine seedings in the standings, the Star Hotshots gained a pivotal 102-89 win over the Blackwater Elites on Friday, to punch a playoff berth in the PBA Philippine Cup held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

PJ Simon started the game on fire from downtown, drilling three quick threes and eleven of his team’s first 16 points. However, Carlo Lastimosa and Reil Cervantes combined to help the Elites erase an early nine-point hole and end the opening quarter down by three.

Star had its best scoring quarter in the second quarter with 27 points. Blackwater’s second unit managed to tie the game at 30 with eight minutes to go before the half expired, but lost grip as Alex Mallari scored eight unanswered points. This ignited Star’s rally late as they extended the lead to a baker’s dozen and entered the half up by double-digits.

Blackwater’s scoring came to life in the third period, but they kept on trading points in the beginning of the second half, favoring Star. Erram, Dela Cruz and Golla made key baskets to aid the Elites comeback to as close as three, 71-68. James Yap and Justin Melton responded with two big baskets in the dying moments of the third to restore a six point cushion heading into the fourth.

Star opened the floodgates in the final period as they unleashed a 12-2 berserk within five minutes. Blackwater’s mini runs were shut down by timely bombs from three-point territory by Mark Barroca and PJ Simon. The Elites had a tough time breaking into the single-digit barrier en route to the Hotshots’ playoff berth.

Simon finished with 26 markers in 30 minutes of action on 8/14 shooting, five triples, and four assists. Four more Hotshots ended in double-figures. Despite being a close fight in terms of rebounds, shooting percentages and turnovers, it was Star’s plus 24 from downtown which spelled the difference in the match. For the Elites, Lastimosa scored 18 points, but needed 20 shots for it. Art Dela Cruz chipped in 17 in the defeat.

Star ended its up-and-down season with a 4-7 record, half a game behind the eighth seeded NLEX Road Warriors(4-6). On the other end, Blackwater drops to 2-8 and their last game against Mahindra, who also holds a similar record, will determine who will book the last spot in the playoffs.

The Scores:
Star (102) – Simon 26, Maliksi 13, Pingris 12, Barroca 11, Mallari 11, Taha 8, Yap 6, Melton 4, Sangalang 4, Reavis 3, Cruz 2, Torres 2.
Blackwater (89) – Lastimosa 18, Dela Cruz 17, Gamalinda 11, Cortez 10, Erram 10, Cervantes 9, Golla 8, Reyes 6, Melano 0, Ballesteros 0, Canada 0, Agovida 0.
Quarterscores: 25-22, 52-42, 78-72, 102-89.