In the second to the last game day in the books, the Star Hotshots clinched a third straight win and score a 87-82 victory over the cellar-dealing Blackwater Elites to punch in the fifth spot in the standings held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Playing a non-bearing game and for team pride, the Elites were off to a good start and managed to stay within the offensive firepower of the Star Hotshots. Looking to play spoilers, Marcus Cousin led the charge as he scored six points late in the first quarter to give his team a two-point edge after 12 minutes.
No team led by more than four points in the first eight minutes of the second quarter as the exchange of baskets poured on. Star then struggled with turnovers that led to seven straight points on Blackwater’s end as the Elites built their largest lead at 11, 42-31. Despite perimeter shots drained by Justin Melton and James Yap in the dying minutes, the bigs of the Elites took care in keeping them at bay as they countered with their own. They were up by seven eventually entering the break.
Star opened up the second half on fire with a 9-3 burst including two transition dunks from Blakely. The defense also picked up for the Hotshots as their reinforcement providing chasedown blocks that led to points on their end. In a quick turnaround, another fastbreak basket converted by Alex Mallari gave them the lead back at 52-51 that triggered the Elites to sue for time.
Unfortunately for Blackwater, Star further increased their gap with a 9-2 run after the ceasefire. During the stretch, Blakely went superb in playing the passing lanes that opened up for his fellow teammates on transition. Despite seemingly taking the momentum, the Elites fought back with their own 6-0 run to trim the deficit. PJ Simon scored his team’s last five points that helped his squad lead by three heading into the fourth.
With the core scorers still in the floor for the Hotshots in the fourth period, Marc Pingris and Blakely combined points to open the game by seven points. Meanwhile, the Blackwater Elites kept on hustling in their end but muffed open shots that possibly could have made the game closer. With no rim resistance, Blakely made it a 78-69 with another thunderous jam.
After a couple more of stops, two more layups gave Star a double-digit separation nearing halfway in the final frame. Good ball movement salvaged up some points for Blackwater as they cut the lead down to six, 84-76 with Cousin scoring underneath. For the last three minutes of the game, the score was stuck at 86-82 with both teams providing good defense and stops that went in favor of Star. The Elites had chances in the rim but missed their attempts. Meanwhile, Barroca sealed the game with a free throw to put a period on Blackwater’s disappointing conference.
Star outrebounded the Elites, 50-42, and had 10 more assists, 23-13. In addition, they had more fastbreak points, 17-6 and more points off turnovers, 18-4.
Blakely had a complete ball game tallying 22 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, and 7 steals. Devance and Mallari chipped in 12 apiece for Star. Cousin had 21 for the Elites together with his 13 rebounds as he played the entire 48-minute game.
Blackwater ended their 11-game eliminations with a 1-10 record while Star gets fifth spot with 6-5 slate.
Star(87) – Blakely 22, Devance 12, Mallari 11, Simon 11, Barroca 10, Yap 10, Pingris 4, Melton 3, Taha 3, Pennisi 0, Reavis 0, Malliksi 0
Blackwater(82) – Cousin 21, Gamalinda 12, Cervantes 9, Acuna 8, Celiz 5, Bulawan 5, Laure 5, Canada 5, Reyes 4, Erram 2, Heruela 2, Golla 2, Ballesteros 0
Quarters: 19-21, 39-46, 67-64, 87-82