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Star fends off TNT to create logjam in standings

MANILA, Philippines – The Star Hotshots kept their playoff hopes alive in the 2016-17 PBA Philippine Cup after powering past the TNT KaTropa, 88-77, on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.

Four players scored in double-digits for the Hotshots, which saw their record improve to 4-4. TNT, for its part, dropped to 4-4. Both teams are now tied with Ginebra, Alaska, and Phoenix for the fifth to ninth spot in the league standings.

“The mindset today was our defense vs. their offense,” Star coach Chito Victolero declared after the game. “That’s our mindset. We limited them to under 80 points, and our goal is under 90 because their average is around 100 points per game.”

“Maganda ang game plan, and maganda ang na-execute ng players. I’m very proud of our guys, especially the guards who stepped up on their defense against (Jayson) Castro,” he added.

Ian Sangalang led Star with 14 points and six rebounds, while Aldrech Ramos added 13 points and seven boards of his own. Allein Maliksi had 13 points off the bench, and Paul Lee added 10 points in a reserve role as well.

Star led nearly all game long, save for a brief stretch in the first frame when the KaTropa were on top 2-0. Ramos drained a three-pointer at 11:00 mark of the opening frame, and the Hotshots never trailed again.

They went on to lead by as much as 19 points, 59-40, early in the third quarter, thanks to another triple by Ramos. That lead steadily dwindled, however, courtesy of Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo. A quick 5-0 burst to end the third quarter allowed TNT to enter the final frame down by 11 points, 62-73.

TNT managed to bring the lead down to single digits, 69-78, early in the fourth after a lay-up by Moala Tautuaa, but Star responded as Ian Sangalang strung together four unanswered points, including a crafty lay-up over Tautuaa, to push the lead back to double-digits, 82-69.

The two teams were able to exchange defensive stops late, with TNT forcing Star into shot-clock violations, while Rafi Reavis came through with some crucial blocks on Castro and Kelly Williams to keep the Hotshots’ ahead.

A split at the line by De Ocampo with 1:13 left made it a seven-point game, 77-84, but Reavis put the game out of reach with 48 seconds to go when he tipped in a missed jump shot by Lee.

For Victolero, the composure they showed down the stretch was a sign that his team has learned from previous losses to Alaska and Ginebra, in which they were unable to execute in crunch time and lost in heartbreaking fashion.

“The close game against Ginebra, and the overtime game against Alaska, I think ‘yun ang madadala namin sa mga ganitong laro ulit,” he said. “Hopefully, sa next game namin, we treat it katulad ng game na ito.”

De Ocampo finished with 21 points, while Castro had 16 points for the KaTropa, who blew a chance to climb to joint second place and instead find themselves mired with four other teams in the middle of the league standings.

Neither team shot particularly well: TNT made 40% of its shots and Star 41%, but the Hotshots were a tad better at the free throw line, making 18 of 26 charities to 14 of 23 for the KaTropa. Star also took advantage of TNT’s 21 turnovers to score 21 points, and got 49 points from their bench while TNT’s reserves produced only 29 markers.

It was also TNT’s second straight loss following an upset against NLEX last week. Meanwhile, Star snapped a two-game slide.

The scores:

STAR 88 – Sangalang 14, Maliksi 13, Ramos 13, Lee 10, Jalalon 9, Barroca 8, Pingris 7, Reavis 5, Dela Rosa 4, Melton 3, Simon 2, Brondial 0.

TNT 77 – De Ocampo 21, Castro 16, Pogoy 7, Rosario 7, Ganuelas-Rosser 6, Tautuaa 6, Williams 4, Rosales 4, Fonacier 3, Reyes 3, Carey 0, Golla 0.

Quarter scores: 20-12, 56-39, 73-62, 88-77.

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.

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