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Star, Acox Recovered on Time to Beat NLEX, Potential Top 4 Finish If...

Star now assured of a Top 4 spot pending Meralco win


Acox recovered from early slump help Star win. (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)

If anything, this is one of the few conferences in the history of the PBA when the quotient system has been used to the fullest and since Ginebra lost last night against Talk N Text and Rain or Shine defeated Blackwater the game earlier, the Star Hotshots now have the opportunity to snatch a Top 4 finishing position entering the quarterfinals. They only needed to win against the NLEX Road Warriors by at least 5 points, and hope that the Meralco Bolts win against the San Miguel Beerman later on.

They fell behind early on. They came back. Their opponents battled back. By the end of the game, it was the Star Hotshots and their hot shooting from outside as they took control of their own fate by beating the NLEX Road Warriors, 100-93- a margin that the Star needed should the Beerman would win later on.

The NLEX Road Warriors of Coach Yeng Guiao wanted a shot of a Top 4 finish and the twice-to-beat advantage during the quarterfinals that comes with it and it showed earlier in the game as the Road Warriors, led by Aaron Fuller held an 8-point lead after the first quarter, at 25-17. And they did that by forcing the Star Hotshots into difficult shots and even into making silly turnovers. They even held Star scoreless for the almost 5 minutes to start the 2nd quarter before Mark Barroca ended the drought with a jumper. A trey by Kevin Alas later pushed the lead to 15 points only to be answered by Justin Melton who also drained a three-pointer of his own.

The teams went into halftime with NLEX only leading by 8 points. NLEX held onto the lead for the majority of the first half after limiting the offensive output of Star's import, Kristofer Acox who only had 2 points on 1 of 6 shooting.

Compared to his counterpart, Fuller already had 8 points of his own to go along with his 9 rebounds. But what doomed the Hotshots in the first half alone is their incapacity to make most of their shot attempts and to make things worse, Star, as a team, only made 1 of their 5 free throw attempts. One of the few things that kept Star in the game during the first half is their shooting from beyond the arc where they made 5 out of their 12 attempts as compared to the Road Warriors who only made 4 of their 15 attempts from downtown.

A 5-0 scoring run by Star brought the lead down to 44-41 to start the second half as NLEX committed careless mistakes to compliment their inability to make shots early in the 3rd.Acox then began to make his presence felt by forcing his way on the inside as Star slowly chipped away at the lead. Aldrich Ramos later drained a trey to tie the game at 51 apiece with under 8 minutes to go in the quarter. PJ Simon later followed that up by converting a 3-point play to give the lead back to Star for the first time since the early stages of the game.

Both teams went on to exchange of made baskets as NLEX managed to bring the backup to 6 only to watch Star erased that lead. The Hotshots took the lead in the dying minutes of the quarter and by the end of the 3rd, Star's lead was up 75-69 after Jio Jalalon drained a long-distance trey to beat the 3rd quarter buzzer.

Juami Tiongson began the final quarter with a 3-pointer and a difficult lay-up only for Paul Lee to scored on a catch-and-shoot trey with under 10 minutes to go. NLEX struggled to make shots as the Hotshots pushed the lead to 8 points on Acox's inside shot with 7 minutes to play.

From that point on, it's an up-and-down battle as Star answered every basket that NLEX made until Justin Melton drained a three-pointer to bring the lead back to 8 with 5 minutes to spare in the game. Paul Lee put Star up by 12 after scoring on a well-contested lay-up with under 4 minutes to go on the clock. A few possessions later, Alex Mallari drained a much-needed three-point shot and a free throw to bring down the deficit to 8 until Mark Barroca nailed a jumper approaching the final 2-minute mark and followed by another jumper by Paul Lee to put the lead back to 12 with 1:30 to go. Star then blocked NLEX's next attempt and that was it. Marc Pingris drained a jumper to pull the life out of the Road Warriors as Chito Victolero decided to sub out his import, knowing that they've already accomplished what they needed to accomplish.

PJ Simon led the Hotshots with 16 points while making both of his attempts from beyond the arc. Paul Lee ended a series of struggling games to finish the game with 15 points Acox recovered from his miserable first half to score 14 points. Mark Barroca provided the spark off the bench with 13 points- many of which were scored in the 4th quarter. On the other side of the fence, Aaron Fuller finished the eliminations with 16 points and 17 rebounds while Alex Mallari added 13 points.

Throughout the game, it was Star's three-pointers that kept them within striking distance in the first half and it was also Star's three-pointers that won the game for them as they combined for making 11 out of their 20 attempts from rainbow country.

Scores:

Star - 101
Simon 16, Lee 15, Acox 14, Ramos 14, Barroca 12, dela Rosa 8, Melton 6, Pingris 6, Sangalang 4, Jalalon 3, Brondial 2, Reavis 0, Mendoza 0, Abundo 0, Pascual 0, Gamalinda 0,

NLEX - 93
Fuller 16, Mallari 13, Fornacier 12, Alas 9, Al-Hussaini 9, Quinahan 9, Lastimosa 8, Tiongson 5, Taulava 5, Villanueva 3, Soyud 3, Baguio 1, Ighalo 0, Rios 0, Gotladera 0

Quarter Scores:

25-17, 44-36, 69-75, 17-25, 36-44, 75-69, 101-93 

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