Paul Lee of the Star Hotshots drives past Alex Mallari of the NLEX Road Warriors | PBA Images

Star repels NLEX for momentum-building win
Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - September 24, 2017 - 11:20am

MANILA, Philippines — The Star Hotshots will ride the momentum of back-to-back triumphs over the Kia Picanto and the NLEX Road Warriors going into the PBA Governors Cup playoffs.

Kris Acox and his teammates rallied from 15 points down and upended the Road Warriors, 101-93, to finish with a 7-4 win-loss mark in the one-round-robin elimination stage at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday night.

The final placing of the Hotshots, however, would still depend on the result of the Meralco-San Miguel Beer match that was being played at press time.

A win by Meralco would make the Hotshots the fourth seed that would enjoy a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals. A San Miguel triumph, on the other hand, would relegate Star to No. 5 which would face No. 4 Barangay Ginebra in the Final Eight.

“We did what we needed to do. We built a good momentum going into the playoffs,” said Star coach Chito Victolero.

“We moved the ball better in finding high-percentage shots in the second half. It’s good we recovered from our poor offense in the first half,” added Victolero.

The Hotshots erased NLEX’s 15-point lead in the first half and subsequently sent the Road Warriors out of the Top Four.

Among the highlight of the Hotshots’ second-half surge was Jio Jalalon beating the buzzer in the third period with a heave almost from midcourt.

The Hotshots then went roaring in the fourth quarter, leading by as many as 14 in a key turnaround carrying the team to a triumphant finish in the elims.

Star caught up with NLEX and Rain or Shine at 7-4 in winning three of its last four outings. NLEX, meanwhile, dropped its last two outings and three of its last five in a sorry windup that torpedoed its Top Four aspiration.

PJ Simon fired 16 points, Paul Lee delivered 15 while Acox, Aldrech Ramos and Mark Barroca added 14, 14 and 13, respectively, in the Hotshots’ balanced offense.

“Problemado kami sa opensa namin in the first half. Sa depensa, di kami nagka-problema,” said Victolero.

The Hotshots got into the groove offensively in the third, pummeling the Road Warriors, 39-25.

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