Star Hotshots hurdle foul trouble to clip NLEX

MANILA, Philippines — The Star Hotshots fought through foul trouble and missed shots in the endgame to come out on top of a 97-95 squeaker against the NLEX Road Warriors in the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup on Sunday, November 8 at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig. 

Star committed 38 fouls and saw big men Marc Pingris and Yousef Taha foul out amid a furious 32-19 fourth quarter rally from NLEX, but still preserved their second victory in 4 games.

"Surprised with the endgame. We pretty much dominated the game then they made shots. We really struggled adjusting to the calls," admitted head coach Jason Webb, whose ward Pingris piled up 6 fouls despite playing only 11:25 minutes.  

"We had a lot of players in foul trouble and that made it difficult for us. It's the boys' God-given talent that got us this victory." 

The Hotshots broke the game wide open, 58-39, in the third before shots began to miss their mark and the Warriors made it a ballgame, 96-95, on a pair of free throws from Sean Anthony with 11.1 ticks left to play. 

James Yap missed both his charities two seconds earlier which could have given Star more breathing room. But they caught a break when Kevin Alas lost the ball in transition and Justin Melton was sent to the line for two shots. Melton, however split his free throws with 1.6 seconds remaining and time expired on NLEX's final possession. 

"He'll make the next," Webb expressed his faith in the veteran Yap, who still finished with 19 points. "That's the good thing about him — he missed it but he will make the next one. When he's back in that situation James will make it. We will make James get the ball and James will make it." 

"In the end, although the breaks never went our way a good majority of the game I felt, that was a big break that went our way," he added of Alas' critical miscue. 

PJ Simon poured 13 points in a huge third quarter and finished with 21 to go with 4 rebounds and two assists. 

Alex Mallari had 14 markers and 7 boards while Melton came off the bench and put on an all-around performance of 13 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, a steal, and a block in over 33 minutes. 

Jake Pascual and Ian Sangalang registered 11 and 10 markers, respectively. Pascual added 11 rebounds for a double-double. 

Anthony was in a class of his own with a game-high 28 points — 12 of which he collected in the fourth — along with 12 rebounds and 3 assists in a game where he attacked the basket relentlessly, hustled on defense, and made outside shots.

Asi Taulava posted 18 markers and 20 boards while Alas had 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists for the Road Warriors, who dropped to 2-1 in the standings. —