The Star Hotshots go home tonight with their third win in the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, reversing a double-digit deficit in the third quarter en route to nipping a Phoenix Fuel Masters squad that struggled to sink their easy baskets, 91-75, Saturday afternoon at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The first quarter opened to a display of firepower by the veteran backcourt duo of James Yap and PJ Simon, who combined for 14 of Star’s points in the period. RR Garcia and JC Intal were the first Fuel Masters to take the scoring reins, but got much-needed help later in the quarter from debuting import Kevinn Pinkney to counter the Hotshots’ salvo. At the end of a heated twelve minutes that saw numerous lead changes and baskets falling from the outside possession after possession, the lead was with Star, 22-19.
Despite a quiet showing from their newly-arrived import, the Fuel Masters found a way to control the pace come the second quarter. An 8-2 rally halfway through the quarter, that featured baskets from Mac Baracael and Emman Monfort, towed Phoenix to a 35-30 lead. Despite spirited performances from defensive specialists Marc Pingris and Rafi Reavis to slow down the Phoenix attack, the Fuel Masters once again went to attacking from the outside. Back-to-back triples by Josh Urbiztondo late in the quarter gave Phoenix the means to pull away with the lead at halftime, 44-37.
Phoenix led by double-digits early in the second half, 50-39, an edge that came the Fuel Masters’ way care of import Pinkney and Chico Lanete. But the tides would soon turn, as a reignited Ricardo Ratliffe exploded for six straight points that trimmed the lead to single digits within two minutes’ time. A triple from James Yap and a layup from Rafi Reavis capped off the run and gave Star back the lead. The Hotshots would go 17-0 within the next few minutes and take a 56-50 advantage. With no one on the Phoenix roster able to slow down the trigger-happy Hotshots, the lead ballooned to as much as thirteen in the dying minutes of the quarter. At the end of three quarters, the lead was with Star, 65-54.
The fourth quarter showed no change in the complexion of the game, despite Pinkney finally sinking his easy baskets. Still struggling to find their foot in the painted area, or make the right adjustments to prevent the opposing side from finding their comfortable looks, Phoenix could only watch as a steady-paced Star kept the lead in the double digits. A triple from PJ Simon that extended the lead to 14 with a minute and a half left on the clock proved to be the icing on the cake for the Hotshots.
Ricardo Ratliffe was named Best Player of the Game for his 21 points, 17 rebounds, and 4 blocks. PJ Simon led the Star locals with 17 points along with 5 boards. James Yap chipped in 13 points.
Kevinn Pinkney had 21 points and 15 rebounds in his PBA debut to lead all Phoenix scorers. Chico Lanete led the Phoenix with 12 markers off the bench.
The Fuel Masters shot a lackluster 31% from the field, sinking only 27 of their 85 field goal attempts. They struggled to score in the paint, bagging only 28 points in the paint when Star hit 50 of their markers in the shaded area. They also struggled to exhaust their scoring options, having only 9 second chance points and 6 from fast breaks.
Star improve to 3-4 in the standings, while Phoenix slide to 2-4.
Star (91) – Ratliffe 21, Simon 17, Yap 13, Barroca 8, Reavis 8, Pingris 7, Sangalang 7, Maliksi 6, Pascual J. 4, Cruz 0, Melton 0.
Phoenix (75) – Pinkney 21, Lanete 12, Intal 10, Baracael 7, Garcia 6, Urbiztondo 6, Wilson 6, Monfort 4, Pennisi 3, Brondial 0.
Quarterscores: 22-19, 37-44, 65-54, 91-75.