Attempted Upset ends in an Upset as Star faltered in the End
Meralco defenders limited Kris Acox to only 4 points. (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
After a come-from-way-behind win in Game 1 and an unmercifully dominant slaughter in Game 2, the Meralco Bolts can book their return trip to the PBA Governors' Cup Finals with a win in Game 3 against the fading Star Hotshots who will have to do without their star, Paul Lee who has been ruled out for the rest of the series. While Paul Lee was never a factor in the first two games, we all know what a Paul Lee can especially if he is healthy. Unfortunately for the wards of Chito Victolero, they must find a way to turn things around and force a Game 4. A win in Game 3 would be a perfect start.
Just when Star thought that they can actually beat the Meralco Bolts and they certainly almost did, they faltered at the worst possible time as the Bolts were able to hold on for a 91-88 victory in Game 3, sweeping the best-of-5 semifinal series and finally booking their ticket back to the Finals. And, they had to work hard for this victory.
The moment Chris Newsome started running on a fastbreak opportunity and finished a lay-up and was followed by Jared Dillinger's first trey of the night, the Meralco Bolts were already on the run as Newsome and Dillinger scored the game's first 5 points. A few possessions after that sequence, the Star Hotshots answered right back with their mini-scoring run to tie the score at 7 apiece and we all knew from that moment that this game is going to be a high-scoring affair.
Throughout the opening quarter, Meralco missed several shots, including open ones as Star was able to take the lead, at 15-14 after Mark Barroca completed a 3-point play only to be answered by Baser Amer who drained another three-point shot for Meralco to make it 17-15, in favor of the Bolts. Just when we thought that the Bols were starting to pull away after establishing an 8-point lead, the Hotshots the next 5 points to come within 30-27 to end the first 12 minutes of the game.
After struggling with their possessions that were ruined by turnovers and well-guarded shots, Ranidel De Ocampo and Baser Amer each drained a 3-pointer which gave the Bolts, a 7-point cushion during the early going of the second frame. Raynel Hugnatan later added another long-distance bomb to make it 41-33 with 6:50 remaining on the clock, forcing a timeout from the Star coaching staff. The Bolts' lead did not go above 8 points as Star was able to bring it down to 6, multiple times. That pattern was finally broken by Allen Durham who scored on a 3-point play to give Meralco, a 54-43 lead going into the halftime break.
Durham had 14 points after the first two quarters to go along with his 7 rebounds. Ranidel De Ocampo was again, effective off the bench with his 10 points which included 2 3-pointers. As a team, the Bolts were making it rain in the first half as they made 7 of their 13 attempts from outside. Overall, Meralco was shooting 58% in the field during the first half and that was one of the reasons why they were in the lead during the first half.
Aldrech Ramos led the way for the Star Hotshots with 8 points off the bench. Marc Pingris and Ian Sangalang had 6 points apiece. Import Kris Acox only managed 2 points on 1 of 5 shooting- a part of the 42% field goal shooting of the Hotshots in the first half. In addition to this, Star's performance from beyond the arc was also one of the reasons why they were down early on as they only made 4 of their 11 attempts from rainbow country.
Moments after the Bolts went up by 13 points to open the 3rd quarter, Mark Barroca went on a personal 5-0 run to bring the deficit down to 8 points. After Cliff Hodge made just 1 of 2 free throws, Marc Pingris scored on the other end to bring Star within 7, at 57-50. However, Hodge added 2 more charities and a lay-up to give Meralco another double-digit lead with under 8 minutes left in the quarter. Meralco was hit by a shooting slump anew as Marc Pingris and Mark Barroca each hit a pair of charities to make it a 6-point deficit, at 64-58 with under 5 to play in the quarter as Norman Black was forced to call a timeout.The lead was then trimmed down to the slimmest margin, at 69-68 entering the 4th quarter as Star was able to take advantage of the Bolts' foul situation throughout the latter part of the 3rd quarter.
Both teams struggled with their shot selection during the first 4 minutes of the final quarter as the Bolts were holding onto a 1-point lead until Mark Barroca, with a pair of charities, gave Star the lead, at 74-73 with 7:53 to go in the game. Turnovers and highly-contested shots starred for the offense of the Bolts which enabled the Hotshots to score on the other end as Star increased their lead to 3 after Pingris scored in the shaded area while by being guarded by Allen Durham.
After a pair of charities from Durham which closed the gap to 1, Jio Jalalon drained a long bomb to give Star a 4-point cushion approaching the final 3:00 mark. With his team needing a basket, Allen Durham drove towards the shaded area and scored on a lay-up with under 2 minutes to play and Chris Newsome added another lay-up to tie the game at 83 apiece with 1:18 remaining on the clock.
Both teams missed their ensuing opportunities to score in the final minute as Meralco used up their final foul to give with 30 seconds to spare as Chito Victolero used the opportunity to draw out a play. Unfortunately, Star was still able to grab the offensive rebound off a Jio Jalalon miss which enabled another timeout from Star. Barroca missed the next three-point attempt of Star and Allen Durham secured the rebound with 3 seconds left and called a timeout. Durham missed on the ensuing possession. Overtime!
After clanking on most of their attempts from outside, Jared Dillinger opened the scoring chores in the extra period with a 3-pointer. From there on, Star missed all of their attempts even as they were able to grab the offensive rebounds. And finally, after scoring just a point in the entire second half, Ranidel De Ocampo scored on a 2-pointer jumper to increase the Bolts' lead to 5 with 1:17 left in the overtime period. After missing on their next possession off a timeout, Chris Newsome held onto the rebound and Meralco used another timeout. Rafi Reavis scored the first two points of Star in overtime with 35 seconds left only to be answered by a trey from Cliff Hodge which was later answered by another shot from the rainbow country from Mark Barroca with 11 ticks on the clock as Norman Black called for another timeout. Unfortunately, time ran out for Star as the Bolts held on even after losing on a jump ball in the previous possession.
Allen Durham scored 24 points, grabbed 19 rebounds and dished 6 dimes although he turned the ball over 7 times. Cliff Hodge added 18 points while Baser Amer and Jared Dillinger totaled 10 points apiece. Just how the Bolts managed to win this game with 20 turnovers? Answer: They had a better field goal percentage, making 44% of their shots while limiting the Hotshots to 38% field goal shooting.
Despite the mere fact that Star only turned the ball over 7 times, the Hotshots still lost. Mark Barroca almost had a triple-double, registering 21 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists while playing for 37 minutes. Marc Pingris added 16 points while Jio Jalalon scored 12 off the bench. Kris Acox, like in the previous 2 games of the series, was offensively absent as he concluded his stint with the Hotshots with 4 points on 2 of 9 shooting nightmare.
Meralco - 91
Durham 24, Hodge 18, De Ocampo 13, Amer 10, Dillinger 10, Newsome 9, Hugnatan 7, Atkins 0, Yeo 0, Lanete 0, Sedurita 0, Caram 0, Faundo 0, Tolomia 0
Star - 88
Barroca 21, Pingris 16, Jalalon 12, Sangalang 8, Ramos 8, dela Rosa 7, Reavis 6, Acox 4, Gamalinda 3, Melton 3, Lee 0, Simon 0, Abundo 0, Pascual 0, Brondial 0, Mendoza 0
30-27, 54-43, 69-68, 83-83, 91-88