After a poor showing in the first quarter, the Star Hotshots completed one of the conference’s most impressive comebacks, forcing a gritty Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters squad into a fourth quarter collapse en route to taking home their second win in the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, 96-88, Sunday evening at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The opening minutes of the game saw the two squads trade baskets and a share of the lead, but a 13-3 TNT run, initiated by import David Simon, saw the Tropang Texters leave the Hotshots in the dust with a 19-9 lead. Star, who shot a lackluster 5-of-21 from the field in the quarter, suddenly found themselves struggling to find any easy shots against a TNT that had gone all-out on the defense. At the end of the first twelve minutes, the Tropang Texters had doubled the Hotshots’ output, 26-13.
Though Talk ‘N Text led by as much as sixteen early in the second, the Hotshots found their hero in Allein Maliksi, whose 18-point explosion in the quarter paved the way for Star to force the 37-all deadlock with just two minutes left in the half. Maliksi got some much-needed help in James Yap and Justin Melton, providing some solid minutes after a quiet first quarter. The Hotshots’ sudden surge culminated in Melton knocking down a breakaway three just before the buzzer to give Star the lead for the first time since the opening minutes, 51-49. Following a series of technical fouls given to Mark Barroca and Alex Mallari for illegally entering the court, the score was tied at halftime, 51-all.
The third quarter opened with newly-arrived import Ricard Ratliffe going all out on the offensive to take the scoring reins for Star and veteran guard Jayson Castro collaborating with rookie Moala Tautaa to lead the TNT counterattack. Star were able to lead by as much six earlier in the quarter, but were unable to keep their lead thanks to TNT’s scorers sinking easy basket after easy basket, and huge stops by Matt Ganuelas-Rosser. The Tropang Texters’ consistency at both ends of the court helped get the lead back just before the end of the third period, 73-66.
With the Hotshots’ heroes from earlier in the game taking some much-needed time to rest, the Tropang Texters continued to hold on to the narrow lead as the final period unfolded. But it was a resurgence from first-half heroes Maliksi and Yap that paved the way for Star to grab the lead once more. A trey from Maliksi and a jumper from Yap put the Hotshots ahead, 81-79, with five minutes left in the quarter. After another game of cat-and-mouse, the Hotshots managed to hold on to the narrow lead as the two-minute mark drew near.
The next minute of play had its share of drama. Missed free throws from TNT veteran Jayson Castro and a triple from Maliksi paved the way for Star to build a five-point lead, 92-87, an advantage the Hotshots managed to hold on to as the game drew to a close.
Allein Maliksi was named Best Player of the Game for his 29 points and 6 rebounds. He shot a perfect 6/6 from the 3-point line. New import Ratliffe had 23 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks in a commendable debut.
Jayson Castro, who had struggled to hit the baskets that could have saved the day for TNT, led the Tropang Texters with 18 points and 5 assists. Ranidel de Ocampo chipped in 15 points, while import Simon had 12 points and 14 boards. The Hotshots dominated the rebounds game, 54-41.
Star improve to 2-4, a slate they now share with the Tropang Texters following the day’s second game.
STAR 96 – Maliksi 29, Ratliffe 23, Yap 10, Melton 8, Barroca 6, Pascual J. 6, Pingris 6, Pascual R. 3, Simon 3, Reavis 2, Sanggalang 0, Taha 0.
TROPANG TNT 88 – Castro 18, De Ocampo 15, Simon 12, Ababou 11, Tautuaa 11, Fonacier 6, Rosser 6, Williams 4, Reyes 3, Rosario 2, Aban 0.
Quarters: 13-26, 51-51, 66-73, 96-88
*Photo by PBA Images